Stressed and Burned Out?

Most people in contemporary society experience stress and burnout from time to time. Normally we recover from these periods, but how do such states affect our crucial professional and ethical behaviors?

A new study of medical students suggests that pressured and harassed folks do indeed perform at a shoddier level than one would hope (J. Amer. Med. Assoc. [September 15, 2010], 1173–1180). The results from seven participating medical schools show that burned-out students have higher levels of unprofessional conduct as well as a reduced sense of altruistic values towards patients. Not what you’d like to see in your future physician.

To be sure, there are limitations to the study—the results are self reported, the subjects are students who don’t yet have to be fully responsible to their profession, and bad behavior may be a predictor of stress rather than the reverse.

Naturally, one wonders whether the results generalize to other groups of people who experience stress-related burnout. Given the high level of concern over scientific misconduct in both the research and the commercial spheres, stress reduction would seem to be good prevention. None of us are of much use when completely frazzled anyway, and such a condition may even cause us to wander into ethically questionable areas. So pick your favorite mode of R&R and go for it!

Posted In: Education

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