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Vol. 68, No. 6, 1999
Issue release date: November–December 1999
Psychother Psychosom 1999;68:348–356

Emotional Distress and Occupational Burnout in Health Care Professionals Serving HIV-Infected Patients: A Comparison with Oncology and Internal Medicine Services

López-Castillo J. · Gurpegui M. · Ayuso-Mateos J.L. · Luna J.D. · Catalan J.
aDepartment of Psychiatry and Institute of Neurosciences, and bDepartment of Statistics, University of Granada Medical School, Granada, Spain; cDepartment of Medicine and Psychiatry, University of Cantabria Medical School, Santander, Spain; dDivision of Neuroscience and Psychological Medicine, Imperial College School of Medicine, London, UK

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Background: The present paper examines the levels of emotional distress and professional burnout among health care professionals working with HIV patients in two different settings, Infectious Disease (ID) Units and a Haemophilia (H) Unit, and compares them with those of professionals working in Oncology (O) or General Internal Medicine (IM) Units, all at public hospitals. Methods: Cross-sectional anonymous survey assessing their psychological condition, occupational stress, work and social adjustment, and providing information about stressors, supports and coping methods, using the General Health Questionnaire, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, the Modified Social Adjustment Scale, and other self-administered instruments. Results: Perceived stress was higher in both O and IM, and the number of stressful circumstances was especially higher in O. No significant differences in psychological morbidity were found among the groups, with these exceptions: a better status among the H staff, who also showed less overall burnout; emotional exhaustion was lower in both ID and H than in the two other groups; the ID staff showed less personal accomplishment. Using a multiple regression model, a series of variables – including work adjustment, social/leisure adjustment, and having chosen to work in their position – was able to predict outcome. Conclusions: Our results highlight the presence of substantial levels of emotional distress and work-related difficulties in a significant number of health care workers. The mental health services could play an important role in conducting further research in this field and in providing practical help to deal with staff’s difficulties.

Copyright 1999 S.Karger AG, Basel

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