Module 2 – What burnout is and is not

This module will help you understand what burnout is and how it differs from fatigue, moral injury, depression, anxiety, and other strain conditions.

Learning Objectives

After reviewing this module, you should be able to:

  • Explain what burnout is as a chronic personal psychological phenomenon with physical/physiological elements.
  • Recognize the differences burnout and other distinct psychological states and health conditions.
  • Explain the processes through which psychological and social resources are gained (and lost).
Questions for Reflection and/or Discussion with your Team
  1. Within our team/working group, are we dealing with burnout or are we really dealing with one or more of the other strain conditions discussed in this module?
  2. In general, what demands are most present within our team/working group and what resources are we most in need of to meet these demands?
Recommended Readings
  • Read (or at least skim) the U.S. Surgeon General’s (2022) Advisory on Building a Thriving Health Workforce, especially the section about “what health care organizations can do” (beginning p. 21) and “what health workers can do” (beginning p. 54)
  • Check out the Public Health Workforce Resilience Resource Library managed by the National Association of County Health Officials (NAACHO)
  • Take a quick burnout risk assessment – these may not be valid for clinical diagnostic purposes, but they can provide helpful information and recommendations:
    • A freely available and widely useful version is the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory – as you review the following example items from this measure, just ask yourself if you and your colleagues would answer with a general “yes” or “no”:
      • “How often are you emotionally exhausted?” (personal burnout)
      • “Do you feel worn out at the end of the working day?” (work-related burnout)
      • “Do you find it frustrating to work with clients?” (client-related burnout)
      • For the full version of this measure with details about its development and testing: Kristensen, T. S., Borritz, M., Villadsen, E., & Christensen, K. B. (2005). The Copenhagen Burnout Inventory: A new tool for the assessment of burnout. Work & Stress, 19(3), 192-207.
    • Here’s another more broad-based option to help you identify personal burnout risks (from TrueveLabs and The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga)