Dietitian burnout in Australia

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An investigation into the Professional Quality of Life of dietitians working in acute care caseloads: are we doing enough to look after our own?

Osland JHND Early View.

Background

The development of compassion fatigue (CF) has been described across a variety of acute care caseloads in some health professions. The present study was undertaken to determine whether dietitians working in these caseloads also experience CF.

Methods

A voluntary, anonymous survey incorporating the Professional Quality of Life tool was developed in an online format, and was e-mailed to dietitians working in public acute care settings.

Results

Eighty-seven completed surveys were returned. Average rates of compassion satisfaction (CS) and burnout and low rates of secondary traumatic stress (STS) were reported. Dietitians in high-risk workloads reported higher levels of STS than those with low-risk workloads (χ2 = 5.4, = 0.02). Differences in STS were found between those practising in paediatric compared to adult caseloads (χ2 = 16.6,< 0.01). Dietitians in smaller facilities reported higher STS (χ2 = 10.6, < 0.01) and lower CS (= 0.05) than larger facilities. Working for >5 years as a dietitian was associated with higher rates of STS and burnout than in those working for <5 years (χ2 = 7.9, = 0.05 and χ2 = 3.8, = 0.05, respectively). Those who perceived greater levels of support reported lower rates of burnout (rs = −0.41, < 0.01) and higher rates of CS (rs = 0.39, < 0.01) than those not feeling supported. All dietitians reported undertaking self-care practices; however, up to 24% reported practices that may represent maladaptive coping methods.

Conclusions

Although the present study suggests dietitians experience a good professional quality of life, vulnerable areas were identified, suggesting the need for additional support in some areas of dietetic practice.

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