Imposter phenomenon in US physicians relative to the US working population

Mayo Clinic ProceedingsScott Cunningham MD PhD, et al. | September 19, 2022



The culture of medicine, which begins in medical school, creates the belief in many that physicians have superhuman powers and self-sacrifice is admirable.

As a result, fair too many physicians have low self-valuation and a sense of personal shortcomings, which increases the risk of burnout and negatively impacts the delivery and quality of healthcare.

US physicians and the general working population were surveyed, and imposter phenomenon was assessed using the Clance Imposter Phenomenon Scale (CIPS).

Standard instruments were used to determine burnout and professional fulfillment among physicians.

Of the 3116 US physicians who participated in the survey, 23% responded “very true” to at least 1 of the 4 items on the CIPS. The mean CIPS score was 9.79 (female, 10.91; male, 9.12; range, 4-20).

Compared to physicians with a low CIPS score (40.4%), physicians with moderate (36.4%), frequent (17.4%), and intense (5.8%) CIPS scores had ORs for burnout of 1.28, 1.79, and 2.13, respectively.

The CIPS scores were higher with age, among academic physicians, and in pediatricians and emergency medicine physicians. The CIPS scores were lower in married physicians, longer years in practice, and among ophthalmologists, radiologists, and orthopedic surgeons. The ORs were similar for suicidal ideations.

Physicians were more likely than the general working population to be disappointed in their accomplishments and had a desire to have accomplished more.