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Morale and job perception of community mental health professionals in Berlin and London

  • Stefan PriebeEmail author
  • Walid K. H. Fakhoury
  • Karin Hoffmann
  • Richard A. Powell
ORIGINAL PAPER

Abstract

Introduction

Morale and job perception of staff in community mental health care may influence feasibility and quality of care, and some research has suggested particularly high burnout of staff in the community. The aims of this study were to: a) assess morale, i. e. team identity, job satisfaction and burnout, in psychiatrists, community psychiatric nurses and social workers in community mental health care in Berlin and London; b) compare findings between the groups and test whether personal characteristics, place of working and professional group predict morale; and c) explore what tasks, obstacles, skills, enjoyable and stressful aspects interviewees perceived as important in their jobs.

Methods

In all, 189 mental health professionals (a minimum of 30 in each of the six groups) responded to a postal survey and reported activities per week using pre-formed categories. Perception of professional role was assessed on the Team Identity Scale, job satisfaction on the Minnesota Job Satisfaction Scale, and burnout on the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Seven simple open questions were used to elicit the main tasks, skills that staff did and did not feel competent in, aspects that they did and did not enjoy in their job, and obstacles and factors that caused pressure. Answers were subjected to content analysis using a posteriori formed categories.

Results

Weekly activities and morale varied between sites and professional groups. Some mean scores for groups in London exceeded the threshold for a burnout syndrome, and are particularly less favourable for social workers. Working in London predicted higher burnout, lower job satisfaction and lower team identity. Being a psychiatrist predicted higher team identity, whilst being a social worker was associated with higher burnout and lower job satisfaction. Male gender predicted lower burnout and higher team identity. However, professional group and site interacted in predicting burnout and job satisfaction. Psychiatrists in London had much more favourable scores than the other two groups, whilst this did not hold true in Berlin. Answers to open questions revealed universal aspects, such as enjoying direct patient contact and disliking bureaucracy, but also various views that were specific to a site or professional group or both.

Conclusions

Burnout remains a problem for some, but not all, professional groups in community mental health care, and social workers in London appear to be a group with particularly low morale. Differences between professional groups depend on the location, and it remains unclear to what extent job-related and general factors impact on the morale of mental health professionals. Answers to open questions reveal general as well as specific aspects of the job perception of the professional groups, some of which may be relevant for service development, training and supervision. More conceptual and methodological work and more extensive studies are required to develop a better understanding of how community mental health professionals perceive their job and how morale may be improved.

Key words

burnout content analysis community mental health care job satisfaction mental health professionals staff morale 

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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefan Priebe
    • 1
    Email author
  • Walid K. H. Fakhoury
    • 1
  • Karin Hoffmann
    • 2
  • Richard A. Powell
    • 3
  1. 1.Unit for Social and Community PsychiatryNewham Centre for Mental HealthLondon E13 8SPUK
  2. 2.Berlin Institute of Social PsychiatryBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Sainsbury Centre for Mental HealthLondonUK

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