A recent study confirms what the MGEU has been saying on behalf of health care aides for years: despite a strong belief in their professional abilities and satisfaction in their work, they are at a high risk for burnout.

The study, conducted by Carole A. Estabrooks and Stephanie A. Chamberlain and published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, surveyed almost 1,200 health care aides from 30 personal care homes in Western Canada. They found that health care aides, despite finding meaning in their work and believing strongly in their professional abilities, were at an elevated risk for emotional exhaustion.

“In our study, we found that care aides work efficiently, sometimes under challenging conditions and with a strong sense that what they do is meaningful — but the risk for burnout is great.”

As Estabrooks and Chamberlain correctly point out, the role of health care aides is central to the quality of care in hospitals and quality of life for residents in care homes. Yet until recently, the issue hasn’t received the attention it deserves because when the health force is studied, typically health care aides and registered nurses are lumped together by researchers. When focusing a study specifically on health care aides “you discover care aide burnout in Canada is rampant” said Estabrooks and Chamberlain.

“I commend the researchers for looking at this important issue,” says MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky. “If you talk to someone on the front line, they’ll tell you that they see the impacts of burnout every day – they’ve either experienced it themselves or they see it in their co-workers.”

While the study dealt exclusively with the issue of burnout in care homes, Gawronsky also emphasized that burnout is a significant, wide-ranging problem in other areas of health care, including in the community where the time allotted to provide home care is woefully inadequate.

“We’ve been advocating for many years to provide more time for health care aides and home care attendants to perform their duties, and for appropriate staffing levels because workers are getting burnt-out. Health care cuts are hurting their ability to provide quality care. We have to put care, not budgets, first.”

The study proposes a number of recommendations to deal with the issue of health care aide burnout. Among them, the researchers call for an improved work culture, including strategies to engage health care aides in decision-making about the residents they care for.

For more about these findings and the researchers’ recommendations, view the full article published in the CBC.