Original Research

Burnout among community service doctors in South Africa

Gemma M. Purbrick, Tejil Morar, Jasmin Kooverjee
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 16, No 1 | a4436 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v16i1.4436 | © 2024 Gemma M. Purbrick, Tejil Morar, Jasmin Kooverjee | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 December 2023 | Published: 15 May 2024

About the author(s)

Gemma M. Purbrick, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Tejil Morar, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Jasmin Kooverjee, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Abstract

Background: Burnout in doctors is an important issue with far-reaching consequences. Community service doctors may be particularly vulnerable because of their specific roles (rural settings, junior positions and reduced supervision).

Aim: This study aimed to determine the prevalence of burnout among community service doctors in South Africa (SA), the potential contributory and protective factors and the consequences thereof.

Setting: This was a national study of community service doctors in SA.

Methods: A quantitative, descriptive cross-sectional study was performed. The Maslach Burnout Inventory was used to measure burnout. The online questionnaire also included demographic data, workplace and individual characteristics.

Results: Of the 208 community service doctors analysed, 89% and 94% had high emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation, respectively, while 97% had a low personal accomplishment. Mental illness, financial difficulties, unmanageable volume of patients and female gender were found to be potential contributory factors. Having manageable patient volumes, satisfaction with their decision to study medicine, talking to colleagues and feeling supported by healthcare facility management were among the significant potential protective factors. Significant potential consequences of burnout included: leaving the government sector, ever being diagnosed with a mental illness, using alcohol as a coping mechanism and possible current major depression.

Conclusion: Burnout among community service doctors in SA is highly prevalent with significant potential consequences. There are a number of modifiable possible contributory and protective factors identified that may be targets for mental health interventions.

Contribution: Healthcare burnout research is lacking in the African and specifically SA context. This void includes community service doctors.


Keywords

burnout; junior doctors; community service; South Africa; MBI.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

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