“The interest of this project is assessing the prevalence of BOS (Burnout Syndrome) among physiotherapists who work in the Estremadura region (Spain)”


I can already hear the arguments from other PT’s, “Why are you reading research from Spain?” and the answer is because we don’t have enough research from America.  We will have to try to extrapolate some of the information from this article to see if it applies to our work environment.  In the end, people are people and no one article will apply to everyone, but maybe some bits of knowledge can come out of this article to help many.


Let’s start with burnout.  It exists in healthcare and this sector has one of the highest rates of burnout among sectors (think like education, healthcare, transportation, law enforcement etc).


From the other research articles that I am reading, burnout is characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and low professional (sense of) accomplishment.


“LPA (low professional accomplishment) is clearly higher in the case of split shift working day as well as in private practice”


A split shift, in this study is defined as just that, a shift that is non-consecutive. For instance, there was one job that I was interested in that would take a two-hour lunch in order for the people working there to go to the gym next door.  As much as I was in favor of it, it would have meant another hour away from my family…so I politely turned it down.


Private practice is private practice.  We have this here in the states.  Private practice is traditionally seen as a capitalistic venture, in which the owners are trying to make as much money as possible.


“…more than 40 hours of direct attention (patient contact) is linked to higher scores in EE (emotional exhaustion), and that more than 20 patients treated per day is associated with higher scored in both EE and Dp (depersonalization)”


Are you surprised?


We treat sick people day in and day out.  We treat people in pain day in and day out.  We are constantly taking the burden of others in trying to help these folks.  It can be exhausting.  The other option that could happen when a person becomes emotionally exhausted is to just “shut it down” and then depersonalize work and simply “go through the motions.”


Is this what you want in a health care provider?

Be on the lookout when you go to therapy to see if the therapist is seeing one patient at a time or more than one patient at a time because it can start to give you insight into the PT’s mindset.

“Physiotherapists included in our study had a moderate level of BOS (burnout syndrome) in its three dimensions: EE (emotional exhaustion), Dp (depersonalization) and LPA (low professional accomplishment).”

Although I don’t believe that I fit into this category, it is becoming more obvious from talking to other PT’s in the profession that this is a major problem that will have to be addressed in the not-so-distant future.  Think about it! The population is becoming older, we have a shortage of PT’s and there will be a higher demand for our services.  There are only so many of us to go around and if the PT works for a company that values $$$ over quality, then the PT’s will be asked to see more and more patients per day.  This appears to be leading the charge for burnout, based on the conversations that I have with other PT’s.


I did an informal survey on FB to determine the primary cause of burnout among the professionals and the primary answer was productivity demands.  For those of you that aren’t in healthcare, this means how many patients are you billing per hour.  WE DON’T MAKE WIDGETS!!!! We can’t treat people like WIDGETS!  It makes sense that some PT’s are getting their ethical buttons pushed and start to depersonalize.  One PT that I spoke to literally said that he was exhausted from TREATING PATIENTS!


Are you kidding me?!


It’s only getting worse out there.  As a patient you need to know what’s happening in the profession and choose a PT that is giving you undivided attention when you are in the clinic (THAT’S WHAT YOU ARE PAYING FOR!) and as a PT, you have a choice to work in a place that is asking more from you than you can deliver or you can leave and find something different.


“…the age of physiotherapists does not seem to have any influence in the syndrome. However, there is an adjustment period, at the beginning of the physiotherapist’s professional development, where they are especially vulnerable to the development of BOS (burnout syndrome).”


Old and young alike feel stress.  We all have ethical buttons.  Some that have swam the waters of this profession for years have learned to live with it, but those coming out are facing challenges that are considered taboo to speak of in school.  It’s only due to social media that these topics are becoming more mainstream for students to learn about.


“…physiotherapists who work split shifts and more than 38.5 hours per week are those who present the highest level of BOS (burnout).”


I don’t know any PT’s, minus those that don’t choose to work full-time, that are consistently putting in less than 39 hours per week.  I am personally putting in a ton of hours per week of direct patient care and indirect care through notes, blogging and doing videos.


“Burnout syndrome reaches its highest levels in those who dedicate more than 40 hours per week of direct attention to patients…”


Should we even bring up student loan debt?


If you want a comfortable/stable life, then you will work more than 40 hours per week.  Otherwise, you will pay your student loans off over decades.  That ball and chain will always be there.  Click  here to learn more about the ball and chain.


I personally receive income from three different companies, which I wished that I did sooner instead of waiting almost 10 years to work multiple jobs.  On the flip side though, had I done this sooner, then I may have experienced burnout and not be in the position that I am in today.


“…more than 20 patients per day have the highest levels of EE (emotional exhaustion), Dp (depersonalization) and BOS (burnout)”


PTs: Does this fit the description of the person and therapist that you want to be? If so, go forth and treat 2+ patients per hour.  Just know that you are making that decision and there is no sympathy for you in the end.


Patients: Does this describe the person that you want treating you? Emotionally exhausted, depersonalized and burnt out? If not, look around.  How many patients are there per therapists.




Excerpts from:

Gonzalez-Sanchez B, Lopez-Arza MVG, Montanero-Fernandez J et al. Burnout syndrome prevalence in physiotherapists. Rev Assoc Med Bras. 2017;63(4):361-365

Categories: non-professionals, Physical therapy, PTs, Written BlogsTags:

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