Social workers play a crucial role in the health care sector by engaging in the delivery of crucial health care services to various populations that are in dire need of these services. They are involved in various areas of health care practice including health promotion, disease management, mental health care, general health care, and taking care of the elderly. In the mentioned fields, the responsibilities or roles of social workers involve discharging planning as well as helping in the resolution of ethical dilemmas that arise. In recent times, in the health care sector, emphasis has been put on accountability, productivity, and cost control and effectiveness (Kim & Lee, 2009). These demands have adversely affected both the performance and attitudes of social worker, particularly in the health care context. The ever-increasing demands for the delivery of social work services in the health care sector have also been seen as antecedents of social worker burnout. It is also unfortunate that amidst the increasing demands, social workers have to grapple with inadequate supervision and staff shortage. Social work is one of the professions that one can succeed in with good supervisory relationships in place (Kim & Lee, 2009). However, the lack of the mentioned conditions has made social work in the health care context difficult resulting in burnout among social workers. The burnout has in turn led to increased turnover in the profession. Burnout and turnover are major issues of concern in the social work profession, and thus, interventions should be put in place to address these. An intervention that could help to prevent burnout among social workers is regular self-care.
Various studies and literature delve into the issue of social worker burnout with a focus on some of the ways of preventing it. This literature review focuses on three social work articles that extensively examine the issue of social workers’ burnout with suggestions on some of the strategies that can help to prevent or reduce the problem among social workers.
Kim & Lee (2009) propose a strategy for preventing burnout among social workers in the article “Supervisory communication, burnout, and turnover intention among social workers in health care settings.” The authors argue that social work is crucial particularly in the delivery of health services to an array of populations. According to this article, some of the areas of health care practice served by social workers include health promotion, mental health care, disease management, HI/AIDS, taking care of the elderly, and general health care. In these contexts, social workers face many difficulties including increased job demands caused by increased paperwork and caseloads, inadequate supervision, and staff shortages. This results in burnout and increased turnover of social workers. Thus, this article argues that social workers must have an understanding of the topic on prevention of social burnout as it is one of the biggest challenges that they face in the execution of their responsibilities particularly in the health care context. Kim & Lee (2009) majorly argue that numerous difficulties are encountered in the social work profession. For instance, social workers encounter increased job demands catapulted by increased paperwork and caseloads, inadequate supervision, as well as staff shortages. The increased role of managed care also presents a significant challenge for individuals in the social work profession. These difficulties lead to increased burnout and turnover of social workers; prospects that can be prevented through supervisory communication. The authors believe that supervisory communication can help in reducing social workers’ role stress that paves the way for burnout and turnover. The authors further underscore the importance of supervisory communication as it is an important coping resource for social workers experiencing high levels of role stress. What is important for social work as far as this article is concerned is that specific types of supervisory communication can help to address the burnout social workers encounter in field of health care practice. This article is important as it outlines what social workers’ self-care must entail when it comes to the prevention of burnout. It states that social workers should adopt regular self-care by being accustomed to job-relevant, upward, and positive relationship communication if they are to address the issue of burnout.
Kim & Stoner (2008) also investigate the issue of burnout among social workers in the article “Burnout and turnover intention among social workers: Effects of role stress, job autonomy, and social support.” The authors share the sentiment that social workers face intense demands in the line of duty including increased paperwork, problems with difficult clients, unmanageable workloads, staff shortages, and inadequate supervision. These problems set the stage for burnout hence the need for social workers to understand the strategies or ways of preventing and reducing burnout. According to the authors, factors such as role stress, job autonomy, and social support are major antecedents to burnout and turnover among social workers. Something useful for social work that emerges from the article is that social work jobs should be redesigned to increase the levels of job autonomy and social support to prevent burnout. People still need to know that administrators have a huge say in what social workers do in the field of health care. Administrators must consider social workers’ opinions about their role-specific stressors if they are to help prevent or address the problem of burnout. This article is important in answering the question of whether regular self-care prevents burnout among social workers. It states that regular self-care among social workers must focus on addressing role stress and job autonomy. Social workers must struggle to achieve autonomy in their line of duty is they are to be free from burnout.
Kim, Ji, & Kao (2011) look at the issue of social worker burnout in the article “Burnout and physical health among social workers: A three-year longitudinal study.” The article’s primary focus is on the fact that there is a high risk of burnout in the social work profession although little is known about its impacts on social worker’s physical health. The authors argue that social workers face the increased risk of psychological distress such as depression as a result of burnout. The article outlines that social workers are largely involved in the delivery of health care services to most vulnerable members in society. Over the years, there has been a significant increase in the demand for these services alongside a decrease in the necessary resources. These have presented significant challenges for social workers hence the burnout they suffer in the process. For instance, nurses have to deal with increasing levels of paperwork, shortage of staff, and inadequate supervision. Something useful for social work that emerges from this article is that job-related stressors are the major antecedents to the burnout experienced by social workers in their line of duty. Thus, addressing the said job-related stressors could be a key step in preventing burnout in the social work profession. What people need to know is that the adverse health effects of burnout could further jeopardize social worker’s productivity in the form of absenteeism from work. This article is important as it highlights how avoidance of psychological stress can be part of the regular self-care aimed at preventing burnout among social workers.
Wyman (2014) argues that social workers are usually subjected to daily stressors and often experience trauma given the different types of clients they interact with. These factors result in the burnout that social workers suffer. According Wyman (2014), one of the factors contributing to day-to-day burnout among social workers is chronic stress. The prevention of these stressors could be a crucial step toward preventing social worker burnout. This article is important to the topic in focus as it argues that regular self-care has the potential of alleviating stress thereby helping to combat social worker burnout.
In conclusion, social workers play a crucial role in the health care sector by engaging in the delivery of crucial health care services to various populations that are in dire need of these services. Unfortunately, these professionals face myriads of challenges including inadequate supervision, shortage of staff, and other unnecessary demands that act as stressors. It is argued that social workers encounter chronic stress that results in burnout. Social worker burnout remains a major concern in the social work profession and everything possible must be done to address the same. Based on the above articles, regular self-care can be one of the strategies for preventing burnout among social workers. This should be done alongside other interventions proposed in the articles.
Kim, H., & Lee, S. Y. (2009). Supervisory communication, burnout, and turnover intention among social workers in health care settings. Social Work in Health Care, 48(4), 364-385. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00981380802598499
Kim, H., & Stoner, M. (2008). Burnout and turnover intention among social workers: Effects of role stress, job autonomy and social support. Administration in Social work, 32(3), 5-25. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03643100801922357
Kim, H., Ji, J., & Kao, D. (2011). Burnout and physical health among social workers: A three-year longitudinal study. Social work, 56(3), 258-268. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/sw/article-abstract/56/3/258/1870802
Wyman, C. (2014). Agency Support for Self-care and Burnout among Licensed Social Workers. Retrieved from https://sophia.stkate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1416&context=msw_papers