Original articles

The influence of burnout on skills retention of junior doctors at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital: A case study

J M Stodel, A Stewart-Smith


This study used the Maslach Burnout Inventory to evaluate the degree of burnout among junior doctors at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RXH), Cape Town, and the influence thereof on the retention of valuable skills in the hospital. It further considered measures that could be taken to mitigate the causes of burnout, by means of qualitative methods.

Background. The research explores the significance of burnout and the role it plays in the retention of junior doctors at RXH. There has been an increase in the migration of medical doctors worldwide, with an exodus of doctors from South Africa. Along with the effects of HIV/AIDS, this places extra strain on those who remain.

Methodology. A two-part, mixed quantitative and qualitative study consisting of a validated measure, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, was sent to 39 junior doctors at RXH. Responses were received from 23 doctors (one of which was invalid), constituting a 60% response rate. The second part consisted of four semi-structured interviews.

Results. Of the 22 respondents, 100% experienced a high degree of burnout on one of the three scales of burnout, namely emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and reduced accomplishment. Of those surveyed, 95% expressed an intention to leave RXH.

Conclusion. The degree of emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation experienced by the junior doctors at RXH was significantly higher than that in a normative sample of 1 104 doctors. Recruitment, improved management and planning, increased support, mentorship and a more empathetic administration were some of the factors suggested to mitigate the burnout experienced by the junior doctors.

Authors' affiliations

J M Stodel, UCT GSB

A Stewart-Smith, UCT GSB

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Burnout, Skills Retention, Turnover, Maslach Burnout Inventory, Junior Doctors, Human Resource Management, Medical Migration

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2011;101(2):115-118.

Article History

Date submitted: 2010-08-03
Date published: 2011-01-27

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