College of Psychiatrists of Ireland survey shows prevalence of burnout in psychiatry trainees at 36%

Publication date: 21st January 2021
A study published on 9 th January in the Journal, Academic Psychiatry, reveals the results of a survey of 100 non-consultant psychiatry doctors working in Ireland, conducted by the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland. The results showed that 36% of survey respondents met the criteria for burnout and 30% of respondents scored low in personal well-being, indicating that this cohort screened positive for depression. Work satisfaction in respondents was generally reported as high.

Sixty-nine non- consultant doctors (69%) psychiatry responded to the study, the median age of respondents was 33 years and 54% of respondents were in a Basic Specialist Training (BST) programme and 23% were in a Higher Specialist Training (HST) and 23% were in non-training posts. In Ireland, psychiatry training is divided into two parts; BST and HST and a trainee must successfully complete both parts before qualifying as an independent Consultant Psychiatrist.

The key results of the survey showed the following; 


  • Burnout is characterised by three domains – exhaustion, increased negativism or emotional detachment to one’s job and reduced professional efficacy. Based on the calculated total score of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization, burnout was present in 36% of the sample. Burnout is an important mediator of psychological well-being and is now a well-established occupational phenomenon.
  • Basic Needs Satisfaction at Work (BNSW) – Work satisfaction was evaluated by three domains, competence, relatedness and autonomy. The performance of on-call duties in the ED by psychiatry trainees was positively associated with higher levels in the autonomy and competence domains. Work satisfaction is deemed an important influencer of the psychological and physical health of workers and it has been found that low work satisfaction impacts upon burnout in doctors working in psychiatry and can contribute to attrition in psychiatry and other specialties. Lack of regular supervision was associated with lower scores across all three subdomains of the BNSW scale.
  • Psychological Well-being – 30% of respondents scored low in personal well-being. A score of less than 50 indicates screening positive for depression, based on international diagnostic criteria. This was measured by the WHO Well-being Index - Again lack of supervision was associated with lower wellbeing scores on the WHO wellbeing index.

Speaking about the results, Dr Caoimhe McLoughlin, Senior Registrar, Psychiatry at time of study completion and lead author of this study said “Clinician well-being and burnout have been shown to be important indicators of quality patient care. Psychiatry as a specialty has unique pressures that predispose to burnout—such as dealing with the effects of trauma, paranoia, or suicide. In addition, the chronic and complex nature of some psychiatric disorders are factors that often exacerbate feelings of incompetence and stress at trainee level. Though it has already been shown in previous studies that lack of supervision can contribute to burnout, this preliminary study provides new information on the relationship between supervision and subjective psychological well-being and work satisfaction in this group; and such findings are likely to extend to trainees in other medical specialties. It is vital to note that the under-resourcing of mental health services is likely to be a huge contributor to burnout–it is very difficult for mental health teams to operate effectively on a mere 6% of the health budget; which compares disappointingly with the EU average of 13%”.

Also speaking about the study, Co-author, Dr Elizabeth Barrett, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, CHI at Temple Street and Associate Professor, UCD concluded ‘The training period should be considered a critical time of intervention with regard to overall wellbeing and satisfaction. This study confirms that level of stress experienced in psychiatry trainees is compounded by lack of supervision and burnout has been associated with increased risk of suicidal ideation in previous studies. It is essential that bodies that train psychiatrists are vigilant to these areas to ensure negative trainee experiences are addressed. It is also crucial that staff retention at trainee level remains optimal to ensure the highest quality of patient care, given that the number of Consultant Psychiatrists in Ireland is half the EU average”.


Please see ‘Burnout, Work Satisfaction and Well-Being among Non-Consultant Psychiatrists in Ireland’ publication in Academic Psychiatry (09/01/21) on

To set up an interview please contact Jane Curtin, Marketing and Communications Manager, UCD School of Medicine. Tel.: 087 938 0779