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VA Mental Health Care Staff More Satisfied and Suffer Less Burnout Compared to Non-VA Community Mental Health Staff


Burnout, characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a diminished sense of personal achievement in the work place is very common among mental health providers and administration. Depending on the sample and methods used, 21% to 67% of mental health workers are reported to experience high levels of burnout at any given time. Moreover, in the VA healthcare system, workers may be feeling additional strain due to increased demand for mental health services from returning OEF/OIF Veterans. This study compared burnout and job satisfaction between 66 VA staff and 86 (non-VA) community mental health staff working in the same large Midwestern city in 2009. Investigators e-mailed a survey to all participants. The survey included information on: demographics, burnout, job satisfaction, intentions to turnover (e.g., how often have you seriously considered leaving your job in the past six months?), and expectations about patients (e.g., how many they expect to have specific outcomes, such as housing and employment).

Findings show VA staff reported significantly greater job satisfaction and accomplishment, less emotional exhaustion, and lower likelihood of leaving their job. VA and non-VA community mental health clinic (CMHC) staff also differed significantly in two categories. CMHC staff were significantly more likely to report job-related aspects as being challenging, such as lack of flexibility in the schedule and little pay (19% in CMHC vs. 2% in VA). VA staff were more likely than CMHC staff to report administrative issues as being challenging, e.g., bureaucracy, red tape, and policies (22% in VA vs. 2% in CMHC).

The authors suggest that while CMHC leadership may need to find ways to address concerns related to job responsibilities (e.g., pay, schedule), VA may need greater focus helping workers navigate administrative concerns.

PubMed Logo Salyers M, Rollins A, Kelly Y-F, Lysaker P, and Williams J. Job satisfaction and burnout among VA and community mental health workers. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research October 5, 2011;E-pub ahead of print.

This study was partly funded through HSR&D (IAC 05-254). Drs. Salyers and Rollins are part of HSR&D’s Center of Excellence on Implementing Evidence-Based Practice, Indianapolis, IN.

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What are HSR&D Publication Briefs?

HSR&D requires notification by HSR&D-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR&D and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR&D based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR&D published articles. Visit the HSR&D citations database for a complete listing of HSR&D articles and presentations.