Physician Burnout and the Calling to Care for the Dying.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats


Citation Stats


BACKGROUND: Physician burnout raises concerns over what sustains physicians' career motivations. We assess whether physicians in end-of-life specialties had higher rates of burnout and/or calling to care for the dying. We also examined whether the patient centeredness of the clinical environment was associated with burnout. METHODS: In 2010 to 2011, we conducted a national survey of US physicians from multiple specialties. Primary outcomes were a validated single-item measure of burnout or sense of calling to end-of-life care. Primary predictors of burnout (or calling) included clinical specialty, frequency of encounters with dying patients, and patient centeredness of the clinical environments ("My clinical environment prioritizes the need of the patient over maximizing revenue"). RESULTS: Adjusted response rate among eligible respondents was 62% (1156 of 1878). Nearly a quarter of physicians (23%) experienced burnout, and rates were similar across all specialties. Half of the responding physicians (52%) agreed that they felt called to take care of patients who are dying. Burned-out physicians were more likely to report working in profit-centered clinical environments (multivariate odds ratio [OR] of 1.9; confidence interval [CI]: 1.3-2.8) or experiencing emotional exhaustion when caring for the dying (multivariate OR of 2.1; CI: 1.4-3.0). Physicians who identified their work as a calling were more likely to work in end-of-life specialties, to feel emotionally energized when caring for the dying, and to be religious. CONCLUSION: Physicians from end-of-life specialties not only did not have increased rates of burnout but they were also more likely to report a sense of calling in caring for the dying.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Yoon, John D, Natalie B Hunt, Krishna C Ravella, Christine S Jun and Farr A Curlin (2016). Physician Burnout and the Calling to Care for the Dying. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. p. 1049909116661817. 10.1177/1049909116661817 Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



Farr A Curlin

Professor of Medicine

Farr Curlin, MD, is Josiah Trent Professor of Medical Humanities in the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities, & History of Medicine and Co-Director of the Theology, Medicine and Culture Initiative (TMC) at Duke University. Dr. Curlin has worked to bring attention to the intersection of medicine, ethics, and theology. In 2012 he helped to found both the University of Chicago’s Program on Medicine and Religion and the annual Conference on Medicine and Religion. Since 2015, through Duke Divinity School’s TMC Initiative, he and colleagues have brought graduate theological training to those with vocations to health care. Starting in 2023, Dr. Curlin also is working with colleagues across North America to develop the Hippocratic Society, an association of students and practitioners dedicated to fulfilling the profession to heal. He is co-author, with Chris Tollefsen, of The Way of Medicine: Ethics and the Healing Profession (Notre Dame University Press, 2021), as well as more than 150 articles and book chapters addressing the moral and spiritual dimensions of medical practice.

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.