Predictors and consequences of veterans affairs mental health provider burnout: Protocol for a mixed methods study

Kara Zivin, Jennifer Kononowech, Matthew Boden, Kristen Abraham, Molly Harrod, Rebecca K. Sripada, Helen C. Kales, Hector A. Garcia, Paul Pfeiffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: In the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), mental health providers (MHPs) report the second highest level of burnout after primary care physicians. Burnout is defined as increased emotional exhaustion and depersonalization and decreased sense of personal accomplishment at work. Objective: This study aims to characterize variation in MHP burnout by VHA facility over time, identifying workplace characteristics and practices of high-performing facilities. Methods: Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, we will evaluate factors that influence MHP burnout and their effects on patient outcomes. We will compile annual survey data on workplace conditions and annual staffing as well as productivity data to assess same and subsequent year provider and patient outcomes reflecting provider and patient experiences. We will conduct interviews with mental health leadership at the facility level and with frontline MHPs sampled based on our quantitative findings. We will present our findings to an expert panel of operational partners, Veterans Affairs clinicians, administrators, policy leaders, and experts in burnout. We will reengage with facilities that participated in the earlier qualitative interviews and will hold focus groups that share results based on our quantitative and qualitative work combined with input from our expert panel. We will broadly disseminate these findings to support the development of actionable policies and approaches to addressing MHP burnout. Results: This study will assist in developing and testing interventions to improve MHP burnout and employee engagement. Our work will contribute to improvements within VHA and will generate insights for health care delivery, informing efforts to address burnout. Conclusions: This is the first comprehensive, longitudinal, national, mixed methods study that incorporates different types of MHPs. It will engage MHP leadership and frontline providers in understanding facilitators and barriers to effectively address burnout.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere18345
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Burnout
  • Mental health
  • Mental health providers
  • Patient outcomes
  • Provider experience
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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