Burnout syndrome in health professionals

Burnout syndrome in health professionals

Burnout syndrome in health professionals

Last update: April 07, 2019

There are many jobs in contact with the public, but the most delicate are those that belong to the health sector. The constant closeness with the patient and the relationship with relatives can be the cause of very negative effects. One of them is the note burnout syndrome to which health professionals are prone.

Burnout syndrome is defined as the emotional reaction to the organizational or work environment. It is characterized by three main symptoms: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and a lack of personal fulfillment. It has a triple negative impact: on the company, on patients and on the physical and mental health of the person who suffers from it.

This syndrome affects a wide range of healthcare professionals: doctors, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, pharmacists, nutritionists, up to social workers and administrative staff.

The mood affects our work

The mood directly affects thoughts and behavior. It affects our ability to judge, our decisions, the attitude with which we face a problem or carry out or not complete an assignment.

A personal problem at work, cause of a perennial state of anxiety affects professional performance. This also happens when the problem is outside the working world: we are distracted, not very concentrated, sensitive, imprecise ...

Focusing on work when our mind is occupied with other thoughts is not easy. And if the level of concentration that our work requires is high, it becomes even more complicated.

"Positive thinking is associated with greater innovative creativity and cognitive flexibility."


Our attentional resources are limited, so we will notice more the negative effects of an altered mood on those tasks that involve considerable cognitive effort. The difficulty increases if we add the ruminative thoughts generated by emotions to our normal train of thought.

Symptoms of Burnout Syndrome in Health Professionals

Symptoms of Burnout Syndrome vary depending on the individual, personal situation and the characteristics of the work environment. Difficulty getting up in the morning and chronic fatigue are among the first warning signs. 

In addition to this, occupational exhaustion syndrome can cause the following symptoms:

  • Psychosomatics: headache, gastric disturbances, insomnia, palpitations, chronic fatigue, allergies.
  • Behavioral: absenteeism, apathy, irritability, pessimism, cynical, hostile, sarcastic, suspicious reactions and generalized or job-focused anxious behavior.
  • Emotional: frustration, boredom, emotional coldness, impatience, anxiety, disorientation and constant feeling of helplessness.

Factors that favor burnout

Some factors that favor burnout syndrome are closely related to work itself. The jobs they involve are especially interested intense, prolonged or frequent human contacts that produce high peaks of stress or intense and constant stress. 

Being heavily involved in work or having high expectations is an additional risk factor. In the end, occupational exhaustion syndrome affects women more than men. 

Pines, Aronson and Kafry (1981) argue, however, that the main cause of this pathology is work boredom. From it would derive a series of emotional consequences favored by:

  • Internal characteristics at work: work shifts, hours, job security and stability, professional seniority, introduction of new technologies in the organization, level of autonomy, salary, career opportunities, appreciation ...
  • External and personal characteristics: poor tolerance for failure and frustration, need to control or feel indispensable, ambition, impatience or excessive perfectionism, competitiveness.

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