The impact of non-medical reading on clinician burnout: a national survey of palliative care providers

Daniel Marchalik, Ariel Rodriguez, Amalia Namath, Ross Krasnow, Simone Obara, Jamie Padmore, Hunter Groninger


Background: Clinician burnout in hospice and palliative care (HPC) has potentially widespread negative consequences including increased clinical errors, decreased professionalism, decreased staff retention, and decreased empathy. Reading non-medical literature has been associated with increased empathy, but no studies on the effect of reading on burnout have previously been conducted. We wished to assess reading patterns of practicing HPC clinicians and determine associations between non-medical reading and burnout.
Methods: Sixteen-item electronic survey regarding reading practices, exposure to non-medical literature, fatigue, quality of life, and burnout symptoms was administered to members of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Burnout measures of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization were assessed by the validated 2-item Maslach Burnout Inventory. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and multivariate regression.
Results: Seven hundred nine members responded (15.2% response rate), of which 129 (18.2%) met the criteria for burnout, with 117 (16.6%) meeting the criteria for high emotional exhaustion and 45 (7.9%) meeting the criteria for high depersonalization. On univariate analysis, burnout was associated with age, reading habits, and fatigue, but not years in practice. On multivariable logistic regression consistent readers had decreased odds of overall burnout compared to inconsistent readers (OR 0.61; 95% CI, 0.39–0.97, P=0.036). This was true across the depersonalization (OR 0.58; 95% CI, 0.36–0.93, P=0.025), but not the emotional exhaustion domain.
Conclusions: Reading non-medical literature on a consistent basis may be associated with a significantly decreased likelihood of burnout, specifically across the depersonalization domain.