An Analysis of Burnout Among Military General Surgery Residents

Research Paper Title

An Analysis of Burnout Among Military General Surgery Residents.


Resident burnout is an increasing issue in graduate medical education programs.

Military graduate medical education is unique in numerous ways and may have different rates of burnout as well as different causes.

This study aims to assess resident burnout rates and contributing factors among military general surgery residents.


Using Department of Defence approved software, an anonymous survey was created and distributed to all general surgery residents (n = 180) in 6 US medical centres where there are general surgery residency programmes.

The survey contained an Abbreviated Maslach Burnout Index questionnaire, multiple choice questions including several military-specific questions, and 2 open ended questions. Rates of burnout and potential risk factors associated with burnout were analysed.


After the collection period, 92 of 180 (51%) residents completed all Abbreviated Maslach Burnout Index questions, demographics, and military specific questions with an opportunity for written comments.

Notable demographic findings of the respondents were that 64% were male, 65% were married or engaged, 40% had children, and 69% had no student loan debt. Overall, there was a 66% rate of burnout in any tertile.

Variables found to be significant for overall burnout included the likelihood the resident plans to stay beyond their active duty service obligation and the perceived level of autonomy.

Of the written responses, the most commonly cited contributing factor was the work burden from nonclinical and/or administrative tasks while the most common protective factor was resident camaraderie.


Overall, burnout rates are similar among military general surgery residents compared to published reports of civilians.

The close association with resident burnout and anticipation of early withdrawal from military service demonstrates this topic is potentially important to retention of the military medical force.

The topics of increased resident autonomy, decreased non-clinical duties, and efforts to increase resident camaraderie should be more closely evaluated.


Modlin, D.M., Aranda, M.C., Caddell, E.C. & Faler, B.J. (2020) An Analysis of Burnout Among Military General Surgery Residents. Journal of Surgical Education. S1931-7204(20)30068-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2020.03.002. Online ahead of print.


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