Original Research

Burnout in emergency department staff: The prevalence and barriers to intervention

Reshen Naidoo, Renata Schoeman
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 29 | a2095 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v29i0.2095 | © 2023 Reshen Naidoo, Renata Schoeman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 April 2023 | Published: 23 October 2023

About the author(s)

Reshen Naidoo, Faculty of Economics and Management Sciences, Stellenbosch Business School, Cape Town, South Africa
Renata Schoeman, Faculty of Economics and Management Sciences, Stellenbosch Business School, Cape Town, South Africa


Background: Burnout impacts patient care and staff well-being. Emergency department (ED) staff are at an elevated risk for burnout. Despite an acceleration in burnout research due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, there is limited data on the nature and prevalence of burnout in the South African emergency medicine setting.

Aim: This study determined the prevalence of burnout in ED staff (doctors, nurses and non-clinical staff) at Tygerberg Hospital and explored staff awareness and utilisation of interventions.

Setting: The study was conducted at Tygerberg Hospital, South Africa.

Methods: This cross-sectional study used the Maslach Burnout Inventory to assess burnout via a self-administered electronic survey in a convenience sample of 109 ED staff. Quantitative data were analysed with descriptive and inferential statistics. Qualitative data were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: A total of 46 participants (45.10%) experienced burnout, with 73 participants (71.57%) at high risk for emotional exhaustion or depersonalisation. The prevalence of burnout in doctors was 57.89%, non-clinical staff was 25.93%, and nursing staff was 50.00%. Burnout was higher in doctors and nursing staff compared to non-clinical staff, with high emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation found in interns and specialist professional nurses. The level of intervention awareness was 41.8% and the level of intervention utilisation was 8.82%. Thematic analysis identified awareness, accessibility and reactive utilisation as barriers to utilisation with opportunities to reduce burnout and enhance resilience.

Conclusion: Coordinated health system and organisational efforts are required to optimise intervention strategies to reduce burnout.

Contribution: Guidance on the design and planning of intervention strategies considering at risk groups, intervention-related factors, and non-clinical staff.


burnout; prevalence; healthcare; hospital; emergency care; intervention; doctors; nurses; non-clinical

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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Crossref Citations

1. Burnout amongst Generalist and Forensic Social Workers: A Comparative Study
Claudia-Lee Hunter, Pieter Boshoff, Erika Fourie
Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development  year: 2024  
doi: 10.25159/2708-9355/15596