Resident Physician Stress and Burnout Resident physicians are in the most stressful stage of their medical career. Normal stress may increase to the point where it becomes abnormal stress, which is thought to achieve a critical level at some point. This abnormal stress level can then lead to burnout; burnout can lead to impairment. Both professional and personal stresses make huge demands on the resident's time. Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day, and as a resident physician that day includes very little, or no, free time. Learning medicine at this level requires a greater level of involvement in patient care and responsibility.
The daily actions of ordering medication, following outcomes of tests and communicating with patients and their families all fall upon the resident. The resident is still supervised by the attending physician. As during medical school, residents must learn to manage enormous amounts of information, new research, treatment protocols and processes of medical practice.
This requires a great deal of study-time, as well as time in lecture, discussion groups, and journal clubs in order to learn their specialties.
An additional demand occurs in residency. Residents become teachers for peers, attending physicians, and medical students. The reasoning is that teaching often educates the teacher better than books or lectures. In many programs, residents provide substantial portions of medical student education during student's clinical years. Residents serve as on-site physicians, sometimes spending nights in the hospital "on call" for routine and emergency situations and for the admission and stabilization of patients. Traditionally, an on call assignment lasted about thirty-six consecutive hours in the hospital, and it was common for the resident to get little sleep. Things are slowly changing, and today's residents tend to have slightly shorter on call hours. Overall, a typical resident spends up to eighty...