Researchers from the University of Oslo in Norway studied physicians, but the findings are probably relevant for all healthcare professionals.

First, the details.

  • 227 doctors participated in 1 of the following counseling sessions.
    • 1 day session: 6 to 7 hours with a psychiatrist or a specialist in occupational health.
    • 1 week: Sessions for 8 participants led by 1 of the same counselors in collaboration with an occupational therapist.
  • The goal was to motivate reflection on and acknowledgment of the doctors’ situation and personal needs.
  • Levels of burnout (Maslach Burnout Inventory) and predictors of reduction in emotional exhaustion were studied.
  • The results were compared to a group of 390 doctors who didn’t participate in the counseling.

And, the results.

  • 185 physicians completed counseling and were re-evaluated a year later.
  • Emotional exhaustion significantly decreased from 3 to 2.5 — similar to the level found in the comparison group of physicians.
  • Participants decreased their working hours by an average of 1.6 hours per week.
  • The proportion of physicians on full-time sick leave decreased from 35% to 6%.
  • The proportion that went on to psychotherapy increased from 20% to 53%.
  • After adjusting for potential confounding variables, the reduction in emotional exhaustion was independently associated with fewer work hours per week.
  • Among men, “satisfaction with the intervention” was a significant predictor of reduced emotional exhaustion.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded that short-term counseling could “contribute to [a] reduction in emotional exhaustion in doctors.”

The authors also state, “considering doctors’ reluctance to seek help, despite high levels of distress, it is important to offer interventions that facilitate access and that can enhance motivation to reconsider personal and professional priorities when necessary.”

11/28/08 20:20 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.