Crisis Intervention: Theory and Methodology

By Donna C. Aguilera | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12
Burnout
Syndrome

My body is weary to death of my mischlevous brain; I am weary forever and ever of being brave,

—Elinor Wylie

Burnout syndrome and its effects have been extensively studied; however, research has generally focused on individual response to people-based stimuli in a care-giving environment. Although Freudenberger's (1975) first definition of burnout was failure, wearing out, or exhaustion from the demands of the organization on a person's strength, energy, and resources, which suggest work environment involvement, the focal point of the burnout syndrome became the individual. His definition evolved to include loss of concern for the recipients of one's care, and emotional exhaustion (Maslach and Pines, 1977; Rogers, 1984). These dimensions have been sustained through the theoretical development of the burnout syndrome.

As many definitions of burnout have been proposed as are authors writing about it. Freudenberger (1974), an authority on burnout, says it is "a depletion of energy experienced by those in helping professions when they feel overwhelmed by other problems." Maslach's Burnout Inventory is an excellent verifiable instrument developed to test the degree of burnout that occurs when staff nurses show indications that they are suffering from the burnout syndrome. Nurses who work in high-stress areas such as the emergency room, intensive care unit, coronary care unit, AIDS wards, and hospice facilities should be very aware of their vulnerability (Raphael, 1983).

More recently, burnout has been defined as a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization of others, and perceptions of reduced personal accomplishment, resulting from intense involvement with people in a care-giving environment (Garden, 1989; Maslach and Jackson, 1986; Pines and Aronson, 1981). The environment in which the work is done has received far less attention in the literature than either the individual response to pressures or job-specific aspects of the burnout syndrome (Tumipseed, 1994).

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