Four out of five medical students report a low sense of personal achievement: Study

New York, Jan 7 (PTI) Nearly 80 per cent of medical students may feel a low sense of personal achievement, according to a study which may lead to better mental health interventions among people training to be doctors.

The researchers, including those from Ohio University in the US, surveyed 385 medical students in the first- through fourth-year, and assessed their levels of burnout -- a psychological syndrome resulting from prolonged exposure to stressful work.

According to the study, published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, burnout has three dimensions -- emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and low sense of personal achievement.

'That 80 percent feel a low sense of achievement is a bit ironic, considering that these are all high-performing individuals,' said Elizabeth Beverly, study co-author from Ohio University.

'However, it also makes sense in that they have gone from an environment where they were standouts to one where they are now on an equal academic playing field,' Beverly said.

Each year of medical school has its own unique and significant stresses preventing students from fully adapting to the challenge, the study said.

In the first year, it noted, students are overwhelmed by the vast amount of knowledge they have to learn.

And in the second year, they begin studying for board examinations.

During year three, the study noted, students are sent on clinical rotations to begin real world application of their knowledge.

The fourth year is focused on graduation, and matching into a residency program, the researchers mentioned.

'Throughout medical school there is always another test or requirement for students to prove themselves in a new way. Over time that can feel quite discouraging,' Beverly said.

Only 2.3 per cent of participants reported high levels of emotional exhaustion, while nearly a fifth of the survey respondents reporting high levels of depersonalization, a form of clinical detachment.

According to the scientists, both these dimensions of burnout are associated with higher perceived stress, poorer sleep quality, and higher smartphone addiction scores.

On the other hand, only higher perceived stress is associated with feeling a low sense of personal achievement.

Beverly said smartphone addiction among medical students is concerning since 22 per cent of participants met the basic score qualifying for this condition.

'I think the findings warrant additional research into how smartphone addiction can exacerbate burnout. Increasingly, medical education incorporates smart devices, so we want to be mindful of how much we condition students to rely on them,' Beverly said. PTI VIS VIS VIS