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Updated 09 November 2017

Work stress vs. personal stress – which causes more burnout?

A study was conducted among Gauteng nurses to figure out whether personal stress leads to burnout more than work stress.

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Studies often examine work stress, and how much of an impact it has on employees and their well-being.

Researchers from Johannesburg, Monash, Free State, Mahidol and Melbourne Universities recently took a different approach. Personal stress was examined as the major factor leading to burnout instead of work stress, hoping that strategies could be developed to help nursing staff, who constantly work in a high-stress environment.

The effect of personal and work stress on burnout, job satisfaction and general health of hospital nurses in SA study required six questionnaires to be completed. Once completed, 86% of the study's participants said they experienced personal stress related to financial strain.

Personal stress a better predictor

The state of healthcare in South Africa is particularly volatile, given the shortage of health professionals at a number of hospitals. This is due to the freezing of positions, along with the change in systems and processes, as well as the shift from hospital care towards community-based and primary care.

While a few major transitions have been underway, the study states that personal stress is a better predictor of burnout and general health. Personal stress is, however, not considered the better predictor of job satisfaction.

Nurses were randomly selected from four hospitals around Gauteng to take part in the study, but of the 1 200 selected, only 895 agreed to answer the questionnaires distributed to them over a period of three weeks.

The demographic for the study consisted of female and male nurses from diverse population groups, ages, experience levels and education.

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Among other results, participants revealed that patient care stress, staff issue stress, job demand stress and lack of support stress were other contributing factors to their ill health and burnout.

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Additional challenges

After analysing data, researchers concluded that personal stress negatively affects work roles, and exposure to long-term personal stress negatively affects employees' health outcomes.

Additional data revealed that certain challenges participants were faced with outside of work, such as marital problems or the ill-health of a loved one, were associated with depression, anxiety and possibly insomnia.

While the study's sample size was substantial, the study was only conducted in one of South Africa's nine provinces. Researchers are hoping that the study may be reproduced with public- and private-sector nurses around the country, to come to a more accurate conclusion around personal stress versus work stress, and the roles these play in nurses' lives.

Researchers also suggested that a few more factors should be taken into consideration, such as the reverse relationship between the variables, along with occupational rank, language, level and type of care, along with public versus private nurses.

 
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