Burnout is a major problem among physicians in the United States. Women physicians experience higher rates of both burnout and sexual harassment than their male counterparts. Some studies from Asia and Europe have shown a correlation between sexual harassment at work and burnout in women physicians, but no studies on this topic have been done in the United States.
For this study, women physicians with active Louisiana licenses were invited to complete a cross-sectional self-report survey to assess burnout and sexual harassment. Burnout was assessed with the 2-item Maslach Burnout Inventory, and sexual harassment was assessed with a questionnaire adapted from the Sexual Experiences Questionnaire and a series of follow-up items.
The survey response rate was 13% (129 of 970 invitees). Of the 129 participants, 36% reported feeling burned out from their work at least once a week and 38% reported having experienced at least one inappropriate sexual incident in their career. Ninety-six percent of respondents reported having experienced gender harassment from their colleagues, while 69% had experienced unwanted sexual attention from the same. Additionally, 69 (53%) participants reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment from patients or their families. Colleague gender harassment was significantly correlated with burnout scores.
This study found that reports of burnout and gender harassment from colleagues were significantly correlated. The results also align with previous findings of high rates of sexual harassment in medical school and residency. More research should be done in this area, especially focusing on women in training, women of color, and sexual and gender minority individuals.