Friday, October 27, 2023

Reducing Burnout in VA Therapists: Study Points to Role of Institutional Support

Burnout is widespread among U.S. health care workers. Just this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report that showed nearly 50% of health workers feel burned out.

Yesterday, Psychiatric Services published an article that suggests that when therapists feel institutional support for the evidence-based treatments they provide, they report less burnout and greater job satisfaction.

The rates of burnout among those who practice psychotherapy at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA)—including psychologists, social workers, and licensed professional mental health counselors—are particularly high, wrote Rebecca K. Sripada, Ph.D., of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

Sripada and colleagues analyzed data from the VHA’s national 2018 Mental Health Provider Survey, which asked those surveyed to rate their level of burnout and job satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 5. Other questions asked the respondents to rate difficulties they had scheduling evidence-based psychotherapy, establishing goals and ending psychotherapy, and more. Respondents who were nurses, psychiatrists, and clinical pharmacists were excluded from the analysis.

Of the 5,341 respondents included in the study, 2,146 (40.2%) respondents reported burnout, and 3,582 (67.1%) reported job satisfaction. The following factors were significantly associated with decreased likelihood of burnout and increased therapist satisfaction:

  • Less difficulty scheduling evidence-based psychotherapy
  • Sufficient telehealth resources
  • Less difficulty establishing goals
  • Less difficulty ending psychotherapy
  • Reasonable workload

“These findings suggest that institutional support for evidence-based practices is robustly associated with job satisfaction and reduced burnout among therapists,” Sripada and colleagues concluded. “Expanding support for therapists to provide these services may accrue benefits to therapists, as well as to patients and health care systems.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Overdose Death Risk Elevated in Many Health Workers.”

(iStock/Jirapong Manustrong)

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