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Social workers and human service practitioners

Lonne, Robert L. (2003) Social workers and human service practitioners. In Dollard, Maureen F., Winefield, Anthony H., & Winefield, Helen R. (Eds.) Occupational Stress in the Service Professions. Taylor & Francis, London, pp. 281-310.

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Abstract

The concepts of ‘burnout’ and, more recently, ‘vicarious trauma’ have predominated in the research and literature concerning occupational stressors and strain for social workers and human service practitioners. Whilst there has been considerable research of the causes and effects of burnout and occupational stress, there is little evidence to suggest that these issues are being proactively or systemically addressed by most human service organisations. Rather, it is usually left to individual practitioners or managers to respond to its sometimes-debilitating effects (Winefield et al., 2000), despite the overwhelming empirical results indicating that organisational and job factors are the key influences on burnout (Barak et al., 2001; Dollard et al., 2001). Regrettably, the costs of inaction are evidenced in the high staff turnover that plagues the human services sector, and the decreased efficiency and effectiveness from otherwise committed and capable helping professionals (Barak et al., 2001). Nevertheless, it would be erroneous to paint the picture that a career in social work and the human services will inevitably be traumatic, short-lived and result in burnout that culminates in the physically, emotionally and psychologically destroyed practitioner leaving the helping professions forever. Whilst burnout and vicarious trauma are real and important issues to be tackled in the human services, they are sometimes overstated and portrayed as endemic in relation to their incidence. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of workers, although at times experiencing considerable occupational stress, generally cope quite well and productively use a range of coping strategies. They live life to the full, enjoy a challenging and stimulating career while experiencing the personal rewards that helping others can entail. This chapter will review and summarise the research findings and literature with respect to occupational stress, burnout and vicarious trauma for social workers and human service practitioners, and will explore their sources, effects and outcomes. The similarities and differences found among the broad diversity of practice in the human services will be identified and critically examined. A range of micro and macro interventions and strategies will also be suggested and explored, along with the implications for stakeholders. The findings of a recent longitudinal study of factors affecting staff turnover and work stress for a group of Australian rural social workers will be outlined and discussed. Future research options for examining occupational stress in the human services will be suggested.

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ID Code: 20086
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional URLs:
Keywords: The Macro Context of Practice in the Human Services, Anxiety, Stress and Burnout in the Human Services, Vicarious Trauma, SOURCES OF STRESS IN THE HUMAN SERVICES, Work Factors, Non-Work Factors, CONSEQUENCES OF WORK STRESS IN THE HUMAN SERVICES, Organisational Outcomes, Personal Outcomes, ADDRESSING WORK STRESS, Organisational Strategies, Personal Strategies, THEORETICAL, METHODOLOGICAL AND POLITICAL ISSUES, WORK STRESS IN RURAL PRACTICE, Descriptive Results, Emotional Exhaustion, Length of Stay and Job Satisfaction
ISBN: 9780415267601
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIAL WORK (160700) > Social Program Evaluation (160703)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIAL WORK (160700) > Social Work not elsewhere classified (160799)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIAL WORK (160700) > Clinical Social Work Practice (160701)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIAL WORK (160700)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Past > Schools > Social Work & Human Services
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2003 Taylor & Francis
Deposited On: 24 Apr 2009 13:10
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 23:37

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