Burnout and Coping: Veterans Health Administration Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Mental Health Providers

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Abstract

Mental health providers employed specifically by the Veterans Health Administration to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be at increased risk for burnout due to both organizational and patient care stressors. Usage of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco products may increase as a means to cope with burnout and stress. This cross-sectional study measured concurrent changes in burnout levels and caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco use as a means to cope with work stressors among a population of Veterans Health Administration mental health providers working within a PTSD specialty clinic. This study consisted of 138 participants, and the sample was mostly female (67%), Caucasian (non-Hispanic; 81%), and married (70%), with a mean age of 44.3 years (SD = 11.2). Participants completed an electronic survey that assessed demographics, absenteeism, and coping behaviors, as well as burnout as measured through the Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey (Maslach, Jackson, & Leiter, 1996). The study results revealed a minor predictive relationship between some dimensions of burnout and the use of some negative health behaviors (drinking and caffeine use) to cope with work stress. Burnout scores (i.e., exhaustion) significantly predicted concurrent missed time from work for both physical and emotional health reasons (sick days/mental health days), but tobacco and caffeine use contributed little, and alcohol was not related to burnout at all. In the future, it would be useful to obtain information regarding in-depth health behaviors that include baseline data as well as prospective systematic fluctuations in these behaviors due to work stressors.

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