Stress, burnout, compassion fatigue, and mental health in hospice workers in Minnesota
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BACKGROUND: Working in hospice care is a highly challenging yet rewarding profession. However, the challenges of working with dying patients and their families can overwhelm even the most highly dedicated professional, leading to burnout, compassion fatigue, anxiety, and depression. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to better understand how stress affects the mental health of hospice workers in terms of burnout and compassion fatigue and how they cope with these issues. METHODS: Data for this study are from Compassion Fatigue and You, a cross-sectional survey of hospice staff from across Minnesota. We surveyed 547 hospice workers throughout Minnesota to better understand the overall mental health of staff, including levels of stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue, and how they cope with these issues. The study was conducted in 2008 and 2009 through a private, not-for-profit research institute affiliated with a large Midwestern health plan. RESULTS: Hospice staff reported high levels of stress, with a small but significant proportion reporting moderate-to-severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, compassion fatigue, and burnout. Staff reported managing their stress through physical activity and social support, and they suggested that more opportunities to connect with coworkers and to exercise could help decrease staff burnout. CONCLUSIONS: Poor mental health places staff at risk for burnout and likely contributes to staff leaving hospice care; this is a critical issue as the profession attempts to attract new staff to meet the expanding demands for hospice care.
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