Stress, burnout, depression and work satisfaction among UK anaesthetic trainees: a qualitative analysis of in-depth participant interviews in the Satisfaction and Wellbeing in Anaesthetic Training study

Elaine Wainwright, Alex Looseley, Ronelle Mouton, Michael O’Connor, Gordon Taylor, Tim Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Anaesthetists experience unique stressors, and recent evidence suggests a high prevalence of stress and burnout in trainee anaesthetists. There has been no in-depth qualitative analysis to explore this further. We conducted semi-structured interviews to explore contributory and potentially protective factors in the development of perceived stress, burnout, depression and low work satisfaction. We sampled purposively among participants in the Satisfaction and Wellbeing in Anaesthetic Training study, reaching data saturation at 12 interviews. Thematic analysis identified three overarching themes: factors enabling work satisfaction; stressors of being an anaesthetic trainee; and suggestions for improving working conditions. Factors enabling work satisfaction were patient contact; the privilege of enabling good patient outcomes; and strong support at home and work. Stressors were demanding non-clinical work-loads; exhaustion from multiple commitments; a ‘love/hate’ relationship, as trainees value clinical work but find the training burden immense; feeling ‘on edge’, even unsafe at work; and the changing way society sees doctors. Nearly all trainees discussed feeling some levels of burnout (which were high and distressing for some) and also high levels of perceived stress. However, trainees also experienced distinct elements of work satisfaction and support. Suggested recommendations for improvement included: allowing contracted hours for non-clinical work; individuals taking responsibility for self-care in and out of work; cultural acceptance that doctors can struggle; and embedding wellbeing support more deeply in organisations and the specialty. Our study provides a foundation for further work to inform organisational and cultural changes, to help translate anaesthetic trainees’ passion for their work into a manageable and satisfactory career.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1240-1251
Number of pages12
Issue number10
Early online date15 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • anaesthetic training
  • burnout
  • wellbeing
  • work satisfaction
  • work stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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