Sense of personal achievement can reduce staff burnout in learning disability services

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Supporting people with learning disabilities can be a stressful job. Previous studies have identified predictors of staff burnout but there is little consensus about the way these factors interact with each other, or their relative importance.

The researchers in this study looked at the direct and indirect associations between work stressors, emotional responses by staff, the social and organisational support resources available and staff burnout.

80 staff working in a community learning disability service took part. The study team administered a short survey examining client behaviour, staff psychological stress, anxiety, depression, social support, organisational support and burnout.

They found that the levels of burnout amongst the group levels were either similar to or slightly lower than would be expected for other groups working in human services. They found that depression symptoms and organisational support were related to emotional exhaustion and de-personalisation.

Having less social support was found to be related to less personal accomplishment. They found that symptoms of depression and low organisational support were found to be related to burnout symptoms.

However, it seemed that the worker’s personal and organisational supports helped to increase their sense of personal accomplishment which provided some buffer against the potential for emotional exhaustion.

Stress, depression, workplace and social supports and burnout in intellectual disability support staff, Mutkins E et al., in Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 55: 500–510

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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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