Occupational stress, coping, burnout and work engagement of emergency workers in Gautenge
Naudé, Johannes Lodewikus Pretorius
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Emergency work is considered to be one of the most demanding occupations with significant social, physical and psychological consequences for the well-being of the emergency worker. Burnout, as well as its antithesis, work engagement, are two possible transactional outcomes impacting on the well-being of the emergency worker. Measurement of burnout and work engagement requires valid, reliable and culturally fair measuring instruments. However, research on burnout and work engagement in South Africa are characterised by poorly designed studies, a lack of sophisticated statistical analyses and poorly controlled studies. Furthermore, research paucity in terms of burnout and work engagement seems to prevail in the multicultural South African emergency worker context. A lack of norms for the Maslach Burnout Inventory – Human Services Survey (MBI-HSS), as well as the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES) makes the identification of burnout and engagement in the emergency services difficult. Consequently, investigating the reliability, validity, equivalence and bias would result in the standardisation of the MBI-HSS and the UWES, suitable for use in the multicultural emergency work setting. Amongst the factors that could play a role in the prevalence of burnout and work engagement are stress because of the demands of a job, a lack of job resources, as well as dispositional variables such as affect and situational variables, such as coping strategies. The operationalisation of occupational stress for emergency workers as well as information in terms of the standardisation of measurement of coping strategies for emergency workers in the South African context are lacking in the literature. The objectives of this research were to standardise the MBI-HSS, UWES and Coping Orientation to Problems Experienced (COPE) and to develop a valid and reliable occupational stress measure for emergency workers in South Africa. Another objective of the current study was to develop and test a causal model of burnout and work engagement of emergency workers, including occupational stress, coping strategies and affect. Finally, moderating effects of coping strategies and affect with regards to burnout and work engagement were tested for. The research method was by means of five separate articles, each consisting of a brief literature overview and an empirical study. A cross-sectional survey design was used. An accidental sample of emergency workers in Gauteng (N = 405) was used. The MBI-HSS, UWES, Emergency Worker Stress Inventory (EWSI), COPE, Affectometer 2 (AFM) and a biographical questionnaire were administered. Descriptive statistics, analysis of variance, correlations, principal component factor extraction, exploratory factor analysis with target rotations, canonical analysis, multiple regression analysis and structural equation modelling were used. Structural equation modelling confirmed 3-factor models of burnout (Emotional Exhaustion, Depersonalisation and Personal Accomplishment) as well as work engagement (Vigour, Dedication and Absorption). Internal consistency for the MBI-HSS and UWES was confirmed. Construct inequivalence was found for the Nguni group but not for the Afrikaans, English and Sotho groups. Item bias analysis revealed evidence of both uniform and no uniform bias for some items of the MBI-HSS, while no uniform bias was found for the UWES. In terms of the EWSI, a 3-factor structure was obtained by means of principal factor extraction with varimax rotation, namely lack of resources, job demands and inherent emergency work stressors. Principal factor extraction on the COPE revealed four factors, namely problem-focused coping, seeking social support, passive coping and turning to religion. Both the EWSI and COPE were found to be internally consistent. Construct equivalence was obtained for the Afrikaans, English and Sotho groups, but not for the Nguni group. Evidence of uniform bias was found for the EWSI, whereas no uniform bias was found for the COPE. Structural equation analysis showed that the lack of resources predicted the core of burnout, namely emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation. Problem-focused coping predicted personal accomplishment, while positive affect predicted emotional exhaustion. Work engagement was related to low burnout scores. Depersonalisation was associated with work engagement. Recommendations for the organisation and future research were made.