Handbook of Health Communication

By Teresa L. Thompson; Alicia M. Dorsey et al. | Go to book overview

16
Stress and Social Support
in Health Care Organizations
Julie Apker
Western Michigan University
Eileen Berlin Ray
Cleveland State University

Caregivers find themselves managing a host of demands that are often at odds with each other. They are expected to be quick but thorough, strong but emotionally accessible, always available but never tired, and honest but infallible. Understanding these demands may help people understand why caregivers communicate as they do.

(du Pré, 2000, p. 93)

Stress and social support are topics that have interested organizational scholars and practitioners for decades. Researchers have investigated a variety of issues related to these subjects, ranging from identifying the communicative antecedents of burnout to determining the “bottom-line” outcomes of stress in areas such as reduced worker commitment and increased turnover to studying the messages and structures that may help employees cope with workplace stress and burnout. These various lines of scholarship reveal that stress, burnout, and social support are communicative processes that are central to our understanding of organizations and their members. Although research in stress and social support has a rich history, the vibrancy of ongoing scholarly activity in these areas highlights the importance of this topic for current and future research.

In a 1987 review of the supportive communication and job stress literature, Ray observed several trends. First, the communication of social support had been conceptualized as a person's accessibility to support or the available sources of support. Second, social support was conceptualized as a means for reducing uncertainty and increasing the recipient's perception of personal control over the stressors. Third, social support was typically assessed from the recipient's point of view. Regardless of the supporter's intent, his or her behavior was only support if the recipient perceived it as such. Fourth, there was no consideration of negative, or dysfunctional, supportive communication. Finally, at the time

-347-

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