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Impact of Acceptance and Commitment Training on psychological flexibility and burnout in medical education (Pages 190-199)

Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science (JCBS)

Volume 23, January 2022, Pages 190-199


Alison J. Szarko, Ramona A. Houmanfar, Gregory S. Smith, N. Nicole Jacobs, Brooke M. Smith, Kian Assemi, Melissa Piasecki, Timothy K. Baker


Medical students are at a disproportionate risk for experiencing burnout, making management of burnout a critical skill to teach in medical education. If left unmanaged, students may develop maladaptive coping strategies as well as substance misuse, suicidal ideation, and poorer quality patient care. This study examined the impact of Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) as a burnout management curriculum with medical students at a western U.S. medical school. Participants (n = 281) completed measures pertaining to psychological flexibility (i.e., the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire-II; AAQ-II) and burnout (i.e., the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure; IRAP). Assessments were collected at three time points over the first two years of medical school. ACT was provided between Time 1 and 2, and not between Time 2 and 3. Results demonstrated statistically significant improvements, specifically for students starting medical school with clinically relevant levels of distress on the AAQ-II (n = 53). Positivity bias and negativity bias were measured with a burnout themed Modified-IRAP (MD-IRAP). Positivity bias maintained across all three time points, despite an increase in negativity bias. Implications for teaching psychological flexibility as a burnout management tool in higher education and healthcare systems will be discussed.

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