Psychologists' Practices, Stressors, and Wellness in Academic Health Centers

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Journal of clinical psychology in medical settings


Burnout has been identified as widely prevalent in physicians and other health professions. However, relatively little has been written about burnout in psychologists. The current study reviews the literature investigating professional wellness, sources of stress, and burnout in practicing psychologists. Based on a survey of members of the Association for Psychologists in Academic Health Centers' (n = 93), stress levels, burnout, and work satisfaction in health service psychologists in academic health centers (AHCs) were examined. Respondents indicated some level of burnout ranging from having no symptoms (8%) to being occasionally stressed (59%), symptoms won't go away (12%), definitely burning out (18%), or being completely burned out (3%). Most respondents described working at high levels, including "at full capacity" (41%) or being "over-extended" (39%). Despite these concerns, most respondents indicated satisfaction with their positions (42% "very satisfied," 44% "somewhat satisfied") and recommended careers as psychologists in medical settings (50% strongly; 34% moderately). Most commonly perceived sources of stress included clinical load, salary, insufficient protected time for research, teaching, education, and supervision, insufficient psychologists to meet the need, and non-billable clinical activities. Consistent with the physician literature, workload was associated with burnout and burnout was associated with decreased professional satisfaction. The current study narrows the gap in the literature on the stress psychologists experience in AHCs and explores findings within the broader literature about health professional burnout. Greater understanding is needed about factors that affect burnout in health service psychologists, identification and modification of risk factors, and prevention strategies.

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ePub ahead of print