Burnout and engagement in relation with job demands and resources among dental staff in Northern Ireland

Author(s): Gorter RC, Freeman R


Objectives: To investigate the psychological health--in particular, levels of burnout and engagement, job demands, job resources, and general psychological distress--among dental staff in Northern Ireland.

Methods: Three hundred questionnaires were administered to all dental offices in the western part of Northern Ireland. The questionnaire consisted of 'Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI)', 'Job Demands in Dentistry measure', 'Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES)', 'Job Resources in dentistry measure', and 'General Health Questionnaire (GHQ)'.

Results: Overall response rate among all staff members was 45% (for general dental practitioners: 65%). Burnout mean scores were unfavourable when compared with MBI manual norm scores, 26% had scores in the 'high' categories of both emotional exhaustion (EE) and depersonalization (DP). This is an indication of severe burnout risk. Time pressure, financial worries, and difficult patients appeared to be the most prominent work demands (mean scores >3). All job demands' scales correlated significantly (P < 0.01) and positively with both EE and DP: 0.30 > r < 0.62. Mean scores for UWES, and all job resources' subscales were all well above each subscale's range midpoint. Treatment results appeared the most prominent work resource. GHQ mean score for all was 1.05 (SD = 0.51). No difference in mean score was found between dentists and other staff (F(1,123) = 1.08, NS). With 'case level' set at a score >3 as a cut-off point, 25% of the subjects have to be considered cases.

Conclusion: Burnout is a serious threat for the dental team in this region of Northern Ireland, especially among general dental practitioners. One-quarter of the dentists were categorized as having a serious burnout risk. Dentists appeared to have most trouble with the work environment aspects: time pressure and financial worries. Furthermore, the proportion of those suffering from psychological distress was unusually high. In contrast to these findings, encouraging levels of engagement were identified. It is recommended that attention for burnout risk is given priority by dental associations.

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