Date of Paper

5-2013

Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)

Department

Social Work

First Advisor

Karen Carlson

Abstract

Having been linked to turnover, absenteeism, a reduction in the quality of services, numerous physical and psychological disorders, and a disruption in interpersonal relations, burnout is a major concern in many human service occupations. This qualitative study sought to identify the factors that either contributed to or prevented burnout in a school social worker. The author of this study analyzed data from a qualitative, semi-structured interview with eight school social workers who have worked in the field ranging from 8 to 33 years. Individual, organizational, and characteristics of the student population were assessed via open-ended questions, which sought to identify factors that might contribute to or prevent burnout in the school social worker. The data was analyzed using inductive, grounded theory methods, in which categories were developed from the interview responses and linked to previous literature. From the data analysis three themes emerged related to ‘Individual Factors’ that either contributed to or prevented burnout. Those themes were: Boundaries, Self-Care, and Attitude. These themes included the concepts of compartmentalization, mental health, and realistic expectations. Three themes also emerged related to ‘Organizational Factors’ that either contributed to or prevented burnout. Those themes were: Supervisory Relationship, School Climate, and Characteristics of Clientele. These themes included the concepts of micromanagement, support, and understanding the role of the school social worker. The findings of this study may inform curriculum development, enhance support structures, and help social workers develop key personal skills that will help them to enhance their resilience, well-being, personal effectiveness, and longevity in the field. The findings also demonstrate how effective supervision and a healthy climate provide a “safety net” for employees, especially when it includes the concepts of boundaries, support, and self-care.

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