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A longitudinal and multicentre study of burnout and error in Irish junior doctors
  1. Paul O’Connor1,
  2. Sinéad Lydon1,
  3. Angela O’Dea2,
  4. Layla Hehir1,
  5. Gozie Offiah3,
  6. Akke Vellinga1,
  7. Dara Byrne1
  1. 1 School of Medicine, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, Ireland
  2. 2 Department of Surgical Affairs, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
  3. 3 Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, RCSI Education & Research Centre, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Paul O’Connor, Discipline of General Practice, NUI Galway, Distillery Rd, Galway, Ireland; paul.oconnor{at}


Background Junior doctors have been found to suffer from high levels of burnout.

Aims To measure burnout in a population of junior doctors in Ireland and identify if: levels of burnout are similar to US medical residents; there is a change in the pattern of burnout during the first year of postgraduate clinical practice; and burnout is associated with self-reported error.

Methods The Maslach Burnout Inventory—Human Services Survey was distributed to Irish junior doctors from five training networks in the last quarter of 2015 when they were approximately 4 months into their first year of clinical practice (time 1), and again 6 months later (time 2). The survey assessed burnout and whether they had made a medical error that had ‘played on (their) mind’.

Results A total of 172 respondents out of 601 (28.6%) completed the questionnaire on both occasions. Irish junior doctors at time 2 were more burned out than a sample of US medical residents (72.6% and 60.3% burned out, respectively; p=0.001). There was a significant increase in emotional exhaustion from time 1 to time 2 (p=0.007). The association between burnout and error was significant at time 2 only (p=0.03). At time 2, of those respondents who were burned out, 81/122 (66.4%) reported making an error. A total of 22/46 (47.8%) of the junior doctors who were not burned out at time 2 reported an error.

Conclusion Current levels of burnout are unsustainable and place the health of both junior doctors and their patients at risk.

  • Health & safety
  • Quality in health care
  • Risk management

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  • Contributors POC, SL, AOD and DB were involved in the design and planning of the study. SL, AOD, LH and GO collected all data for the study. POC, SL and AV analysed the data. POC drafted the initial manuscript with all other authors assisted with redrafting it. All authors reviewed and approved the manuscript prior to submission.

  • Funding This research was partially supported by the Health Service Executive’s National Doctors Training and Planning.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Five ethics review boards associated with each of the participating intern training networks.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The authors are happy to consider sharing the data with any interested researchers. Please contact the corresponding author.

  • Correction notice This paper has been amended since it was published Online First. Owing to a scripting error, some of the publisher names in the references were replaced with ’BMJ Publishing Group'. This only affected the full text version, not the PDF. We have since corrected these errors and the correct publishers have been inserted into the references. Affiliation for Gozie Offiah has been corrected.