2005 issue 2

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Volume 14, issue 2

Symposium

Cognitive appraisal and competence as determinants of burnout in helping professions

HELENA SĘK1
1. Instytutu Psychologii Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Postępy Psychiatrii i Neurologii 2005; 14 (2): 93-98
Keywords: occupational burnout, prevention, counteraction

Abstract

Background. A model approach to burnout presented in the paper may be useful in preventing the phenomenon.

Review. In social services where the quality of professional interaction with the client, patient, student, etc. determines the level of professional help, it is this very aspect that simultaneously decides about a high degree of burdening with the occupational role requirements. Occupational stress, job stress, and the stress of a specific interaction may result in a burnout phenomenon. Helping is tiresome and with time may lead in some people to a set ofsymptoms including psychophysical and emotional exhaustion, distancing up to the feelings of depersonalisation and cynicism, as well as to a decreased job satisfaction and underrating of one's professional achievements. This may be called also a syndrome of maladjustment to job stress under conditions of insufficient competence for coping with the burden of work and a lack of organisational or social resources. In the cognitive-competence model of burnout an emphasis is laid on the subjective appraisal of the experienced job stress, and of one's resources in coping with the job requirements. Research findings indicate that it is this perceived lack of competence that is pivotal for the burnout syndrome. Interventions aimed at raising awareness of this occupational hazard do not reduce by themselves the risk of burnout.

Conclusions. The work on raising awareness of one's motivation and professional goals is most important, as same as the training of professional competencies and coping skills, or instilling a belief that the risk of burnout can be prevented in early stages of the syndrome development. At the time of particular systemic difficulties assistance in improving the system of care delivery and job organisation in these professions plays also a significant role.

Address for correspondence:
Prof. Helena Sęk, Instytut Psychologii Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza,
ul. Szamarzewskiego 89, 60-568 Poznań