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Serving a Suffering Population

October 24, 2022 - 4 minute read

The past twenty years is an approximate time frame during which the phenomenon of burnout has been the focus of ongoing scientific and empirical research for effects on those working in the field of education (Hall et al., 2019). No longer a problem only or primarily discussed for effects on those in medical fields, burnout has been determined a challenge that can affect any professional working in any field (Beatrice, 2020; Marcionetti & Castelli, 2022). One contributing factor for the previous concentration on burnout specific to the helping fields was a description of doctors, nurses, or clinical professionals as those who serve a suffering population (Raimondi, 2019). Ziaian-Ghafari and Berg (2019) discussed the high levels of psychological distress experienced by education professionals and suggested burnout as one contributing factor, which supports the assertion that burnout symptoms should be a concern for any professional. It cannot be denied that schools and, by proxy, those who work there are being called upon to provide academic, behavioral, and emotional support and intervention for students. When looking at just one of many increasingly alarming areas of concern, the median age for the onset of anxiety is eleven and 39.1% of adolescents suffer from an anxiety disorder of some kind (Garcia & O’Neil, 2021). This statistic alone would suggest educators are serving a suffering population on a daily basis and should be considered at risk for experiencing burnout due to chronic and work-related stress.

The problem of burnout has been established as real and concerning for education professionals, but there are research-based intervention strategies to consider. One suggestion found in the literature regarding educator wellbeing was to consider mental health variables that have been shown as effective in the battle against burnout (Dexter & Wall, 2021; Lei et al., 2020). As one example, Saloviita and Pakarinen (2021) confirmed the moderating role of self-efficacy. Bandura (1977) defined self-efficacy as linked to an employee’s own perception regarding an ability to perform tasks associated with intended outcomes. Hall et al. (2019) suggested schools take a proactive approach to mitigating full-blown burnout and one measure is to actively work to support and enhance teachers’ levels of self-efficacy. The following subscales, taken from the Teachers’ Sense of Efficacy Scale (TSES), should be areas of active focus: efficacy in student engagement, efficacy in instructional strategies, and efficacy in classroom management (Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy, 2001). School leaders can use reliable and valid surveys, such as the TSES, to help teachers assess areas where self-efficacy levels might reveal opportunities for extra support as one proactive measure against burnout. Bandura (1982) provided four categories related to self-efficacy support and school leaders can lean into clear expectations and ongoing support in the areas of performance outcomes, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological feedback. While this information does not come with a one-size-fits-all approach or solution, it can be used as support for the importance of enhancing levels of self-efficacy for school professionals as a proactive step in mitigating the potential and harmful effects associated with burnout. If teaching is a profession that serves a suffering population then burnout is a risk. Knowing this can lead to purposeful strategies to enhance teachers’ levels of self-efficacy so they feel equipped and able to perceive their ability to reach and impact their students.


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Raimondi, T. P. (2019). Compassion fatigue in higher education: Lessons from other helping fields. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 51(3), 52-58.

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Ziaian-Ghafari, N., & Berg, D. H. (2019). Compassion fatigue: The experiences of teachers working with students with exceptionalities. Exceptionality Education International, 29(1), 32.

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