Managing stress and avoiding burnout: Part 1 – understanding stress and burnout

by Dr Sunil Raheja


Last reviewed: June 2019


Stress. We all think we know what it means, and as doctors most of us can claim to have experienced it at some time or another (or at least know someone who has).


The word 'stress' often crops up in everyday conversation. However, it can be confusing as it can refer to a wide range of mental, physical and social ill health issues.


Strictly speaking, stress is not a recognised medical condition. Even so, unrecognised it can go on to cause a number of long-standing ill effects including burnout as well as more general psychiatric morbidity.


The BMA (2019) report on the mental health of doctors found:


  • 9 in 10 doctors say they are fearful of making errors because of systemic pressures and a lack of capacity.


  • More than half worry they may be unfairly blamed for such an error and as a result nearly 50% say they practice defensively.


  • 60% of doctors surveyed said the quality and safety of patient care is compromised as a result of problems and barriers between primary and secondary care – even though over 90% of doctors in England want GPs and hospital doctors to work more collaboratively and in a coordinated manner.


  • 2 in 5 doctors say bullying and harassment are problems in their workplace.


  • 1 in 5 say they have personally experienced it in the past year.


This module seeks to give an overview of current research on stress as it applies to doctors in general and psychiatrists in particular.


Start the module



If you like this module, you may also be interested in:


Managing stress and avoiding burnout: Part 2 –taking action by Dr Sunil Raheja


Leadership and management series Part 1 – an introduction to leadership and management for psychiatrists by Dr Michael Hobkirk


Helping the addicted doctor by Dr Elizabeth Hare and Dr Malcolm Bruce


Book from RCPsych Publications: Management for Psychiatrists (4th edition)



BJPsych Advances: related articles for CPD Online



Related Advances articles


Download take-home notes to print and annotateDownload take-home notes to print and annotate


In the second module, Managing stress and avoiding burnout: Part 2 taking action, we suggest practical steps for dealing with stress and preventing burnout.


Please note that although each module has a different module test, the references are the same.



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