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Keywords:

  • multicentre study [publication type];
  • *burnout, professional;
  • students, medical/*psychology;
  • workload;
  • life change events;
  • *education, medical, undergraduate;
  • personal satisfaction;
  • humans;
  • male;
  • female;
  • adult

Objectives  Little is known about specific personal and professional factors influencing student distress. The authors conducted a comprehensive assessment of how learning environment, clinical rotation factors, workload, demographics and personal life events relate to student burnout.

Methods  All medical students (n = 3080) at five medical schools were surveyed in the spring of 2006 using a validated instrument to assess burnout. Students were also asked about the aforementioned factors.

Results  A total of 1701 medical students (response rate 55%) completed the survey. Learning climate factors were associated with student burnout on univariate analysis (odds ratio [OR] 1.36–2.07; all ≤ 0.02). Being on a hospital ward rotation or a rotation requiring overnight call was also associated with burnout (ORs 1.69 and 1.48, respectively; both ≤ 0.02). Other workload characteristics (e.g. number of admissions) had no relation to student burnout. Students who experienced a positive personal life event had a lower frequency of burnout (OR 0.70; ≤ 0.02), whereas those who experienced negative personal life events did not have a higher frequency of burnout than students who did not experience a negative personal life event. On multivariate analysis personal characteristics, learning environment and personal life events were all independently related to student burnout.

Conclusions  Although a complex array of personal and professional factors influence student well-being, student satisfaction with specific characteristics of the learning environment appears to be a critical factor. Studies determining how to create a learning environment that cultivates student well-being are needed.