The relationship between burnout, personality traits, and medical specialty. A national study among Dutch residents

Purpose: To examine the associations between residents’ personality traits, type of specialty, and symptoms of burnout.

Method: A cross-sectional online survey among Dutch residents was conducted (see Supplementary Material). The 20-item Dutch translation of the Maslach Burnout Inventory was used to ascertain burnout. Personality traits were assessed with the 44-item Dutch Big Five Inventory. Logistic regression analyses, including all five personality traits, were used to assess associations with burnout. Analyses were stratified by specialties.

Results: One thousand two hundred thirty one residents participated, 185 (15.0%) of whom met the criteria for burnout. Neuroticism was significantly associated with resident burnout in all specialties, more strongly in supportive (odds ratio (OR) 6.19, 95% CI 2.12–18.12) and surgical (OR 4.37, 95% CI 1.76–10.86) than in medical residents (OR 1.99, 95% CI 1.22–3.24). Extraversion was significantly associated with less burnout in surgical residents (OR 0.26, 95% CI 0.13–0.58). These findings remained highly significant after controlling for gender, overtime, autonomy at work, satisfaction between work and private life, and the perceived quality of the learning environment.

Conclusions: Burnout risk was associated with personality traits in residents. Consistently, residents scoring high on neuroticism reported more burnout. Extraverted surgical residents were less susceptible to burnout. Residents scoring high on neuroticism may require more intense monitoring during their training years.