Stress and Burnout in Physiotherapists. A literature review of causative factors, the impact on patient care and coping strategies.


To analyse and add further understanding of the extent and nature of stress and burnout in the physiotherapy workforce, its impact on the workforce and patient care. To identify coping strategies that can be used by clinicians and managers in the workplace to reduce stress and burnout.


Twelve electronic databases were searched from 2007 to January 2017 using relevant search terms and inclusion and exclusion criteria. Further research was captured by manually searching reference lists and seeking grey literature. Studies were screened and assessed for eligibility, 17 studies were included in the review.


The findings and discussion were thematically organised into four areas; sociodemographic variables associated with burnout in physiotherapists, physiotherapists´ workplace settings and its impact on burnout and stress, impact of burnout on patient care and coping strategies for burnout.

The findings highlighted that there are various sociodemographic variables and workplace settings that can contribute to physiotherapists experiencing stress and burnout. There were a variety of findings with regard to the impact of gender and length of service on stress and burnout in physiotherapists. High levels of stress and burnout in the physiotherapy workforce can impact negatively on patient care and the literature.

There was no single workplace setting identified that increased the risk of stress and burnout, however community settings were more prone to lack of support and isolation and are at a higher risk of developing work related stress. The literature identified that organizations that prioritize staff health and well being will achieve enhanced performance, improved patient care, retain staff and have lower rates of turnover.

Whilst there are a number of coping strategies that were identified within the review that related specifically to physiotherapists, the evidence highlights that there is no single approach or coping strategy that is an effective strategy for physiotherapists. Clinical supervision was found to be a coping strategy used by physiotherapists, yet reasons such as caseload demands and time constraints can often affect clinical supervision taking place.

The literature review provides a valuable insight into understanding the impact of stress and burnout amongst physiotherapists practising today. It acts as a secondary source of information as it provides a critique overview of existing literature on the topic of burnout and stress within physiotherapists and contributes to the understanding of practice challenges in the physiotherapy workforce in the modern day healthcare service.

The review highlighted that physiotherapists are not immune to stress and burnout, the gaps in the research identified the need for further research in this area particularly in the United Kingdom and Wales.


Areas identified for further work were captured for practice, management, education and research. The literature review identified that further research is required on the stressors that lead to stress and burnout and effective coping strategies that can be used in the workplace.

Funding acknowledgements

This work was unfunded and carried out as part of MSc Primary and Community Healthcare.  

Additional notes

This work was presented at Physiotherapy UK 2019