Exposure to aggression affects staff emotional well being in Canadian study

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We have posted a number of times about staff burnout and the factors impacting on this, where previous studies have shown an assoication between stress, burnout and exposure to aggressive behaviours. The authors of this Canadian study were concerned that these previous attempts to study the issue were based on small samples and that there was little data focusing on North American services and staff.

They used a cross-sectional survey design, an approach used to gather information on a given population at a single point in time to determine the relationship between two factors. They worked with 926 community staff working to support adults with learning disabilities in Ontario.

Their survey included demographics along with measures of frequency and severity of exposure to aggression. They also had staff complete the Maslach Burnout Inventory – Human Services Survey.

What they found was that nearly all staff reported being exposed to client aggression in the 6 months prior to the research
The found that the mean MBI-HSS scores were comparable to those found in previous studies, although they found a higher score in their study in the MBI HSS personal accomplishment domain.

They also found all measures of exposure to aggression significantly positively correlated with MBI-HSS scores in the emotional exhaustion and de-personalisation dimensions of burnout.

They conclude that that the prevalence of burnout in their study is comparable to that reported elsewhere, despite the higher sense of accomplishment found in the current sample.

They add that this larger sample study supports the notion that exposure to client aggression affects staff emotional well-being but is not the only important factor.

Exposure to client aggression and burnout among community staff who support adults with intellectual disabilities in Ontario, Canada,  Hensel, J et al., in Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 56: 910–915.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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