Exploring Residents' Well-Being and Burnout via Qualitative Ecological Momentary Assessment

Judy A. Shea, Lisa M. Bellini, Sanjay V. Desai, Frances K. Barg, Whitney Eriksen, Larissa E. Wietlisbach, Abdul Rakeem Yakubu, David A. Asch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose Most of what is known about resident burnout and wellness comes from cross-sectional snapshot surveys. The purpose of this study was to elicit qualitative perspectives on wellness from a cohort of internal residents over time using ecological momentary assessment. Method Drawing on principles of ecological momentary assessment, 13 different open-ended survey prompts were delivered between October and March during the 2019-2020 academic year. Participants were 88 randomly selected internal medicine residents from 4 internal medicine training programs in the Northeast. Results The response rate was 95%. Three main themes regarding wellness were self, program/education environment, and medical/structural system. A fourth theme, the desire to provide quality patient care, cut across all other themes. The patient care theme repeatedly stressed residents' desire to spend more time with patients. The self theme primarily reflected messages about personal emotions and the need for work-life balance and wellness. The program/education environment theme reflected the value of learning, teamwork and community, and program culture. The medical/structural system theme showed that residents' experiences were shaped by the efficiency of their days and largely a product of their schedules and administrative support. Closing advice to future trainees was optimistic and reassuring. Conclusions While findings support much of what has been learned via single-occasion survey snapshots, an ecological momentary assessment design allowed a deeper dive into contextual associations. The results affirm the primacy of patient care and also highlight the value of teamwork and culture. Peers and program leaders are heavily influential in setting the tone for the learning experience, whether for the day or with a more enduring message of respect and support. There is opportunity to maximize high-or higher-value learning experiences for residents and find solutions to reduce and reframe the perceived "low-value administrative work" that is part of care coordination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)414-419
Number of pages6
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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