Burnout and Coping Strategies Utilized by Occupational Therapists in Ontario
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Introduction: Burnout is a familiar term for today’s health care professionals with emotional, psychological, physical, and social consequences for those who experience it. It leads to job dissatisfaction, low organizational commitment, absenteeism, as well as inter personal conflict in teams and patient care. Objectives: This mixed methods study has 3 objectives: 1. To determine the levels of burnout being experienced by a sample of occupational therapists practicing in Ontario. 2. To describe the practice issues faced by participants in their day-to-day work and 3. To describe the coping strategies participants employ to maintain their practice. Methods: A concurrent embedded mixed methods research design was used. The mixed methods design collected quantitative and qualitative data. In the first phase, 63 participants completed a survey, which collected demographic information, responses on Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey and Areas of Worklife Survey, and their use of coping strategies. In the second phase, focus groups and interviews with 7 occupational therapists were conducted to learn about practice issues, and coping strategies used to address the identified demands. Results: 34.8% of the participants reported high levels of emotional exhaustion, 43.5% of the participants reported high levels of cynicism and 24.6 % report low professional efficacy. Unmanageable workload predicted 29.9% of the variance in emotional exhaustion. Rewards predict 15.5% of the variance in professional efficacy. Demands on time, lack of autonomy, lack of respect and conflict were identified as practice issues participants grapple with on a daily basis. Spending time with spouse/partner/family, maintaining balance between professional and personal lives, maintaining sense of control over work responsibilities and maintaining sense of humor were rated highly by participants as coping strategies they utilize to maintain their practice. Maintaining self awareness / self monitoring, focusing on satisfying aspects of work, importance of workplace/home community and boundaries emerged as additional coping strategies from the focus groups and interviews. Conclusion: This study contributes to understanding the practice challenges for occupational therapists in the contemporary healthcare arena. It provides valuable insights into factors that contribute to therapist burnout and strategies they employ to maintain competent practice.