Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Determinants of Professional Distortion Development in Medical Personnel, Teachers and Psychologists, Working in the Industrial Disaster Zone

Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Determinants of Professional Distortion Development in Medical Personnel, Teachers and Psychologists, Working in the Industrial Disaster Zone

Article excerpt

Studies of personal adaptation to dynamic work conditions and job content form one of the most important domains in work and organizational psychology. Contemporary base-line research is targeted to reveal the factors that contribute to effective work, unimpaired health, and well-being. In this domain the studies of various professional disadaptations and the elaboration of psychological support programs are growing rapidly (Bodrov, 2006; Cooper, Dewe, & O'Driscol, 2001; Kasl, 1978; Leonova, 1996, 2003).

Many of the studies are devoted to manifestations of stress and the development of professional distortions in socionomic occupations (Leonova & Bagryi, 2009; Leonova & Kachina, 2006; Mitina, 1998; Velichkovskaya, 2004; Vodopianova & Starchenkova, 2009; Yasko, 2005). The identifying features of such occupations are the following: the peculiarities of the job context require not only a high level of mastery and work quality but also special personality traits: eagerness to maintain excellent psychological stability, to prevent chronic stress, and to minimize the risks of distortions (such as burnout syndrome), including chronic fatigue, neuroses, and stress-related diseases.

In the socionomic domain disadaptation predictors can be subdivided into two types: external (job content and work, organizational and socioeconomic conditions) and internal (individual characteristics, work motivation and values, job satisfaction, work experience, and competence level) (Velichkovskaya, 2004; Yasko, 2005). A number of studies focus on coping behavior--namely, the types of coping strategies (Vodopianova & Starchenkova, 2003). Some researchers investigate components of emotional intelligence as one of the coping resources on the personality level (Khazova & Vershinina, 2010; Lusin, 2004; Ryajeva, 2010). Emotional intelligence, defined as the ability to understand, to differentiate, and to control self-emotions and the emotions of others (Mayer & Salovey, 1993), is a work-specific characteristic that is required in socionomic occupations.

In spite of a broad range of investigations targeted at revealing the psychological resources needed for successful professional development, the problem of adaptation to the demands of extreme/difficult work situations is on the agenda. Work efficiency and the internal costs of task execution are the main indicators of the potential for adequate professional actualization. Efficient work ensures a high level of functioning and health maintenance in the nurturing professions in critical environments.

Description of the research project

This article presents the results of research focused on discovering the determinants and individual predictors of professional distortions in medical personnel, teachers, and psychologists working under tense conditions. Participants in the study were involved in long-term programs of human relief assistance after a catastrophic accident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric power station. The large-scale accident took place on August, 17, 2009; 75 employees died. At the time of the study the specialists had worked in conditions of emotional tension and high workload for over 2.5 months.

First stage

The investigation consisted of two stages. In the first stage a diagnostic and training program was held for the group of psychologists. The psychologists were engaged in long-term programs of psychological assistance to the victims. There were 15 psychologists, 14 women and 1 man; the average age was 35; average work experience was 10 years. Two months after the accident the psychologists' workload rapidly increased because of the high number of calls for psychological help. At the time of the research the psychologists were working in nearly extreme conditions. It became obvious that the accumulation of fatigue and emotional tension increased the risk of developing chronic fatigue, which is a predictor of possible professional distortions. …

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