INTRODUCTION : Working in emergency care is commonly regarded as highly stressful. This is also true in the
African setting characterised by high patient loads and limited resources. As in other similarly demanding occupations,
burnout can be anticipated. The aim of this study was to examine the level of burnout amongst
doctors in a cohort of public sector emergency centres in Gauteng, South Africa.
METHODS : An observational, cross-sectional design was employed, using the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human
Services Survey (which has been tested and validated in similar settings elsewhere). The study included a cohort
of doctors working in the emergency centres of public sector hospitals in Gauteng, South Africa.
RESULTS : One hundred participants completed the questionnaire out of a possible 124 doctors working at the five
centres. Ninety-three met the inclusion criteria and was further analysed. Seven respondents were specialist
emergency physicians (7.5%), 36 were emergency medicine registrars (38.7%) and 50 were medical officers
(53.8%). Fifty one respondents were female (55.0%). Analysis of burnout component scores showed a mean
emotional exhaustion score of 31.69 (standard deviation, SD=10.32), with 62 respondents (66.7%) in the highrisk
group – from 86 (92.5%) at moderate to high risk. The mean de-personalisation score was 13.39
(SD=6.21), with 50 respondents (53.8%) in the high-risk group – from 75 (80.7%) at moderate to high risk of
burnout. The mean personal accomplishment score was 34.87 (SD=6.54), with 21 respondents (22.6%) in the
high-risk group – from 65 (69.9%) at moderate to high risk of burnout.
DISCUSSION : The results indicate that a large proportion of the doctors who work in these emergency centres are at
moderate to high risk of burnout. Based on our findings we recommend that interventions be introduced at the
work place to reduce burnout in doctors and improve their mental well-being. This will ensure better service
delivery to patients with emergencies. Further research into the causes of occupational burnout should be explored.