Is Burnout burning us out?

Burnout is perhaps the most misunderstood and misused term used in healthcare today. In this amazing talk from Liz Crowe given at CODA you will learn about the history of the term and what it really means for us as individuals, as teams and as organisations. There are so many fantastic concepts and ideas in here, and I especially love the elements about meaning-making and teams. As someone who still loves the work that I do despite the myriad of work stressors around at the moment, there is a lot here that makes sense.

There is so much great stuff in here, and it’s really changed the way that I think about burnout.

  • Burnout as originally described is NOT an individual diagnosis, and the misappropriation of the term is not helping us.
  • Christine Maslach, who designed the Maslach Burnout Inventory score (the most widely used tool) states that we are using the term inappropriately.

Interestingly, one of the organisations I work with measures burnout by asking people if they feel burned out. There is no validity in that question, no validity in the data it produces and most importantly, it really does not tell us what we might do to improve working lives. It is that last part that is so important, it is highly likely that the term is being used to describe a whole range and/or combination of work related stressors, but by putting all things together under one poorly measured and poorly defined metric we risk losing the ability to truly understand what the issues are and more importantly what we can do to resolve them.

You can hear more from Liz on the links below. Also check out the St Emlyn’s podcast and search for recordings with Liz where we go into a lot of the issues mentioned in the talk in a little more detail.



References and further reading

  1. How to Measure Burnout Accurately and Ethically by  Christina Maslach Michael P. Leiter
  2. Liz Crowe, “Wellbeing for the broken. Part 1. Liz Crowe for St Emlyn’s,” in St.Emlyn’s, April 27, 2019,
  3. Liz Crowe, “Wellbeing for the broken. Part 2. St Emlyn’s,” in St.Emlyn’s, April 27, 2019,
  4. Simon Carley, “Wellbeing for the broken part 3, the Podcast. St Emlyn’s,” in St.Emlyn’s, May 23, 2019,
  5. Liz Crowe, “Wellbeing at Work – Dr Liz Crowe,” in St.Emlyn’s, December 12, 2022,
  6. Simon Carley, “Grief at Christmas. Liz Crowe at St.Emlyn’s,” in St.Emlyn’s, December 18, 2015,
  7. Liz Crowe, “Communicating terrible news: Can we do it better? Liz Crowe at St.Emlyn’s,” in St.Emlyn’s, September 13, 2015,
  8. Simon Carley, “Understanding grief with Liz Crowe: St. Emlyn’s,” in St.Emlyn’s, July 8, 2015,
  9. CODA

Cite this article as: Simon Carley, "Is Burnout burning us out?," in St.Emlyn's, July 12, 2023,

1 thought on “Is Burnout burning us out?”

  1. I found this article to be a valuable resource for information about burnout in healthcare. I would recommend it to any healthcare provider who is concerned about this issue.

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