Burnout among psychiatrists in the Veterans Health Administration

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32 Scopus citations


Research suggests that mental health workers are at high risk for burnout, and that burnout can increase staff turnover and reduce quality of care. The Veterans Administration (VA) employs over 3000 psychiatrists across the United States, but little is known about burnout in this population. This study was conducted to examine predictors of burnout and intent to leave the VA among a national sample of VA psychiatrists. Participants (N = 125) responded to an anonymous online survey. Regression analyses were used to examine relationships between workplace variables, patient characteristics, and burnout as measured by the Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey - which includes sub-scales for cynicism, exhaustion, and professional efficacy - as well as intent to leave the VA. Based on established cut-off scores, 90% of the sample reported high cynicism, 86% reported high exhaustion, and 74% reported high professional efficacy. High cynicism predicted the intent to leave the VA (p =.004). Not feeling part of a coherent team predicted greater cynicism (p =.01), and patient characteristics such as suspected malingering showed a positive trend with cynicism (p =.05). Workplace characteristics such as unfair treatment by supervisors (p =.03) and insufficient resources (p =.001) predicted greater exhaustion. The current findings suggest that burnout is prevalent in the VA psychiatry workforce. Specific administrative measures to reduce burnout may have potential to improve the emotional health of that workforce and ensure high quality of care for the veteran population it serves. The size of both the VA psychiatry workforce and patient population underscores the importance of greater understanding of burnout as it occurs in the VA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-114
Number of pages7
JournalBurnout Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2015


  • Burnout
  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychiatry
  • Retention
  • Veterans Affairs
  • Workplace

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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