Burnout is a job-related psychological syndrome causing depersonalization, emotional exhaustion and lack of personal accomplishment. Albeit studies mainly focus on professionals who have a direct contact with patients, physicians and nurses, little is known about burnout among other professionals employed in clinical research, that requires stressful efforts to maintain quality standards. We decided to evaluate perceived and actual burnout levels experienced by professionals who are at the “bottleneck” of research: Clinical Research Coordinators (CRCs).
The Gruppo Italiano Data Manager spread an anonymous questionnaire among about 130 CRCs. The survey consisted of 8 items on workload and perceived stress levels and a specific burnout test developed by a group of Italian psychologists.
The survey was completed by 36% of subjects. On average, interviewed CRCs work 42 hours/week and follow 25 studies; 89% feel stressed and 64% believe that this affects negatively the quality of their work. Moreover, 57% of CRCs declare that this condition may soon cause a job change. The major sources of stress are: contract type (43%); workload (17%); lack of skills recognition (11%). Interestingly, the factor that most frequently has been identified among the first 3 causes of stress is the contract type (81%), followed by lack of skills recognition (32%). Based on the psychological test, the average stress level of the sample is 68 points out of overall 225; the highest levels pertain the emotional (average: 17.0/45) and physical spheres (16.3/45), while the social area is the least affected (9.7/45). Stress levels show only a very weak correlation with workload (Pearson coefficient = 0.062) and hours worked (0.095).
Albeit almost all CRCs perceive high levels of stress, psychological testing shows a medium-low degree of burnout. An explanation could be that CRCs are settled into distressing work conditions, so this no longer results in burnout. Burnout was substantially uncorrelated to quantitative estimates of workload, rather depending on other, qualitative, factors, such as lack of skills recognition and contractual instability. Lastly, our data suggest that current workload evaluation methods, mainly based on the number of followed studies, are no longer appropriate.
Clinical trial identification
Legal entity responsible for the study
Gruppo Italiano Data Manager (GIDM)
All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.