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Wellness and Burnout in Human Services Literature: A Content Analysis of the Journal of Human Services Brett Gleason, Chris Wood, and Roy Teng, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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Burnout makes a serious problem in the spheres of human service. Human services professionals have an emotionally intense job

In addition, they often may have an extreme caseload. Unfortunately, they also have little chance to have professional support or supervision. All these factors, taken together often result in such problems as stress, depression, emotional fatigue and professional burnout. It is important to be aware of these problems, their signs, and means to prevent them, in order save physical and emotional health and to be able to work effectively. If not treated timely, burnout can have a negative impact on physical health, emotional state, and job performance.

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The concept of burnout has sustained the interest of nurses and researchers for several decades. Despite the large amount of studies done in attempt to investigate and predict the related factors of burnout, no conclusive data could be drawn. This is because the health care system is in constant change. The factors that relate to burnout will present different relative significance with the changes. Notwithstanding this, the related factors to burnout could generally be classified as both organisational and personal related

Therefore, to base practice, burnout intervention programmes should be multidimensional consisting of work-related as well as personal directed approaches.For all of the studies used for this literature review, the data are collected using self-reports from the participants. Many authors warned that self-reported data might be contaminated by common method variance, because both the independent and dependent variables are based upon one source of information which is the participants. Therefore, future research should also utilised objective means for collecting the result findings.Except for one, all authors of the research used for this literature review utilised cross-sectional methodology, therefore, casual relationships cannot be made from their results. Their findings also cannot be generalised in another milieu.

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Even though burnout is frequently mentioned as a problem in the mental health field (e.g., (Edwards, Burnard, Coyle, Fothergill, & Hannigan, 2000), the construct is typically measured as a continuous variable so that the actual prevalence of “burnout” is difficult to quantify

In order to help address this issue, Maslach, Jackson, and Leiter (1996) presented score ranges on the MBI to conceptualize low, average, and high levels of burnout based on large normative samples for various occupations. For mental health workers, high levels of burnout included emotional exhaustion scores of at least 21, depersonalization scores of at least 8, and personal accomplishment scores of 28 or below; note, however, that these cut-off scores for “high” burnout in mental health workers are relatively low compared to other occupational groups. Research shows that continuous data scores on the MBI are predictive of other problems (see Maslach et al., 2001), but empirical validation of the cut-points for “high” burnout on the MBI is lacking. Therefore, literature using these cut-offs should be evaluated with some skepticism, namely that the low cut-off scores for “high” burnout in mental health may inflate the prevalence of burnout in some studies. On the other hand, one could argue that lower rates of burnout still deserve attention, since even “mild” burnout has been associated with increased risk for mental health problems (Ahola et al., 2005).

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After all, resources should include both emotional resources in the form of social support and instrumental tools that facilitate meeting work-related responsibilities. The development of effective managerial and organizational-level workplace interventions that prevent or relieve emotional exhaustion among human service workers is key to the protection of worker well-being. Workplace interventions addressing emotional exhaustion must be systematically explored in future research studies through qualitative and quantitative methods of inquiry in order to develop effective evidence-based workplace interventions.

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Maslach C, Jackson SE, Leiter MP. Maslach burnout inventory manual. 3. Palo Alto, California: Consulting Psychologists Press; 1996.

The relationship between job-related burnout and depressive disorders--results from the Finnish Health 2000 Study. Ahola K, Honkonen T, Isometsä E, Kalimo R, Nykyri E, Aromaa A, Lönnqvist J J Affect Disord. 2005 Sep; 88(1):55-62.

Stress and burnout in community mental health nursing: a review of the literature. Edwards D, Burnard P, Coyle D, Fothergill A, Hannigan B J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2000 Jan; 7(1):7-14.

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