Digital Public Defence: Karin Mohn Engebretsen

MSc Liv Karin Mohn Engebretsen at Institute of Health and Society will be defending the thesis “From dedicated to Burned out - and Back? A phenomenological exploration of the lived experience of suffering from burnout and implications for medical care” for the degree of PhD (Philosophiae Doctor).

Photo: Håkon Sparre.

The public defence will be held as a video conference over Zoom.

The defence will follow regular procedure as far as possible, hence it will be open to the public and the audience can ask ex auditorio questions when invited to do so.

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Digital Trial Lecture – time and place

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Adjudication committee

  • First opponent: Professor Michael Loughlin, University of West London
  • Second opponent: Dr.Psych. Marie Adams, Metanoia Institute
  • Third member and chair of the evaluation committee: Associate Professor Kåre Moen, University of Oslo

Chair of the Defence

Professor emeritus Ida Torun Bjørk, University of Oslo

Principal Supervisor

Researcher Wenche Schrøder Bjorbækmo, University of Oslo


Burnout can be sited within the current debate of evidence-based versus person-centred approaches in medicine and healthcare. Despite huge effort to understand different aspects of the phenomenon, burnout remains a contested diagnosis.

The aim of the thesis was to explore the lived experience of burnout to provide new knowledge for supporting the rehabilitation process. Eight semi-structured interviews were conducted. A phenomenological methodology was applied to uncover how the participants made meaning of their situation focusing on factors that could enhance or restrict recovery. 

The study highlights that burnout is often reduced to depression, which is one of the symptoms. As depression is not recognised as a physical illness in medicine, working is considered part of the rehabilitation. Despite not feeling well, the participants felt a real pressure to return to work, which in turn worsened their condition. As “knowers” of their own bodies, they felt ignored and distrusted by the healthcare system and the Social Services.

Accordingly, the study highlights how those ontological and epistemological stances taken in evidence-based medicine influence the current practice – pointing out that clinical encounters are experienced as a main challenge. This fact can be related to two sub-challenges. The first one is the scientific problem linked to what counts as biomedical evidence. The second one is related to how inherent norms and attitudes influence inter-subjective mechanisms associated with inter-affectivity.

The thesis outlines a suggested solution to these two sub-challenges. Firstly, rethinking the notion of causation and secondly, choosing a genuinely person-centred approach. By taking the lived experience of the ailment back to the “owner”, we can provide a fertile ground for deepening our insight into individual needs for support. Thus, revealing singular causal dispositions can improve the prognosis for recovery by preventing symptoms from becoming chronic.

Additional information

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Published Sep. 3, 2020 10:38 AM - Last modified Sep. 21, 2020 1:29 PM