Meanings of becoming and being burnout – phenomenological-hermeneutic interpretation of female healthcare personnel's narratives

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Abstract

The incidence of burnout has increased in many industrialized countries. Burnout is mainly studied among people still at work and with quantitative methods. The present study aimed to illuminate the meanings of becoming and being burnout as narrated by healthcare personnel on sick leave because of symptoms of burnout. Interviews with 20 female healthcare personnel were performed, tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim and a phenomenological-hermeneutic method was used to interpret the text. The result shows that the meanings of becoming and being burnout are to be torn between what one wants to be and what one manages. It is as one's ideals have become more like demands and no matter the circumstances, one must be and show oneself as being capable and independent. It is also to be dissatisfied with oneself for not living up to one's ideals as well as disappointed with other people for not giving the confirmation one strives for. Feelings of being a victim of circumstances emerge. Thus, becoming and being burnout is leading a futile struggle to live up to one's ideal, failing to unite one's ideal picture with one's reality and experiencing an overwhelming feebleness. This is interpreted in the light of Buber's philosophy as well as relevant empirical studies about burnout. One conclusion is that it seems important to reflect on as well as discuss between one another about our everyday reality; what are reasonable vs. unreasonable demands. Hopefully, such reflections will increase our tolerance of ourselves and others and our insightfulness of what is possible to achieve in work as well as in private life. This study is ethically approved.

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