The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) is a great research tool, as it tracks burnout over a long period of time. However, this time-intensive commitment also limits its ability to be used across entire organizations, as they more likely want to see near-term burnout and the value of an intervention. An additional problem is that the personal accomplishment focus of the MBI doesn’t correlate with burnout as well as the depersonalization or emotional exhaustion components.
In contrast, a 2013 article by Dyrbye et al. discusses the value of a well-being tool for physicians that represents a slightly modified version they tested with medical students.
Dyrbye Liselotte N, Satele Daniel, Sloan Jeff, Shanafelt Tait D. Utility of a Brief Screening Tool to Identify Physicians in Distress. J Gen Intern Med. March 2013;28(3):421-427. doi:10.1007/s11606-012-2252-9.
The scale is a simple yes/no 7-question screening tool that is simple and quick to capture real-time data about physicians in distress, rather than make a diagnosis of burnout.
Using a scale to self-assess vs. normal introspection has many advantages, including the ability to break through one’s self-deception that “everything is fine.” Self-assessment of status in terms of burnout is especially helpful if values are determined across an entire organization. The scale developed by Dyrbye et al. can be used across an entire organization, which allows comparison of individual status to near peers. That comparison can bring additional attention to a problem and increase the chance that action is taken.
Additionally, the organizational focus of the scale allows it to potentially build robust norms that can compare scores to the larger population or between institutions. But, it’s also possible that comparing one’s answers to another may not meaningful, especially given the high rate of burnout (estimated at 47% in residents in a recent study). If one feels exhausted, does it help to know that it could be even worse or on average is somewhat worse?
The most significant weakness, however, is that this is not a sophisticated diagnostic instrument and is not expected to be one. The results are broad strokes and the poor resolution limits the ability to track changes over time to detect subtle improvement or worsening. It can, of course, be used alongside a more comprehensive solution that is sold to organizations, yet that would be an additional request.
The tool developed by Dyrbye et al. is potentially available to your organization if you take part in their research study. Otherwise, it is available on request and can only be used freely when implemented as a part of a research endeavor. That limitation might preclude your organization from being able to access or review the scale.
We have created our own online survey that can help you self-assess burnout. It is freely available and totally anonymous. While it isn’t standardized and lacks the research efforts used to create other scales, we’ve chosen items that are consistent with other scales and made changes based on the research associated with burnout measurement. We hope this survey might be beneficial to you in self-assessing burnout individually or in comparison to others in your organization.