Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Medical Sciences Interdepartmental Area
Steven Wengel, MD
Elizabeth Beam, PhD, RN
Kyle Meyer, PhD, MS, PT, FASAHP
Lynnette Leeseberg Stamler, PhD, DLitt, RN, FAAN
burnout, professional, physical therapists
The extent of burnout within the profession of physical therapy remains relatively unexplored despite the widespread national attention given to burnout among other healthcare professionals. The purpose of this pilot study was to describe the current state of burnout of physical therapists in Nebraska using a multiple methods approach.
The quantitative phase of the study utilized a cross-sectional design and survey to measure burnout levels and identify associated characteristics of 407 practicing physical therapists in Nebraska. According to the Maslach Burnout Inventory, approximately half the sample exhibited engagement while the other half experienced at least one dimension of burnout. The burnout profile was seen in 9.9% of the sample. The quantitative findings revealed that work environment factors played a more substantial role in contributing to burnout than sociodemographic characteristics.
A multiple case study approach was utilized for the qualitative phase of the study to explore perceptions of physical therapists about factors associated with burnout and the impact on patient care and physical therapist well-being. Four themes emerged from the data describing factors contributing to burnout. They were intrinsic factors of physical therapists, workload, culture of work environment, and societal perception of the profession. Themes of disengagement, loss of empathy, personal health issues, and low employee retention were revealed to describe the impact of burnout.
This study had several important findings. First, it indicated that physical therapists in Nebraska are indeed experiencing burnout which often stems from the emotional exhaustion caused by high job demands. Second, the study emphasized that burnout significantly harms personal well-being and the ability to provide quality patient care. This finding strengthens the suggestion that it could be crucial to incorporate a fourth aim specifically addressing the well-being of healthcare providers to achieve the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's 2007 Triple Aim, which seeks to enhance patient care, improve population health, and reduce costs. Furthermore, the research underscores the significance of work environment factors in triggering burnout. Consequently, to combat burnout effectively, it is imperative to prioritize interventions at the organizational or societal level, rather than solely focusing on individual efforts.
Sleddens, Nicole M., "A Multiple Methods Study to Describe the Manifestation of Burnout of Nebraska Physical Therapists" (2023). Theses & Dissertations. 791.
Available for download on Saturday, December 06, 2025