Reflecting peer-support groups in the prevention of stress and burnout: randomized controlled trial

Ulla Peterson, Gunnar Bergström, Mats Samuelsson, Marie Asberg, Ake Nygren
Journal of Advanced Nursing 2008, 63 (5): 506-16

AIM: This paper is a report of a study to test the effect of participating in a reflecting peer-support group on self-reported health, burnout and on perceived changes in work conditions.

BACKGROUND: Stress-related conditions are one of the most common causes for long-term sick-leave. There is limited evidence for the effectiveness of person-directed interventions aimed at reducing stress levels in healthcare workers. Prior research in the relationship between support and burnout show somewhat inconsistent results.

METHOD: A randomized controlled trial with peer-support groups as the intervention was conducted with 660 healthcare workers scoring above the 75th percentile on the exhaustion dimension of the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory. One hundred and fifty-one (22.9%) agreed to participate. The intervention started in 2002 with 51 participants (96.1% were women), 80 of whom constituted the control group. Potential differences in outcome measures 12 months after the intervention were compared using ancova, and data collected was completed in 2004. Qualitative content analyses were used to analyse reported experiences from group participation.

RESULTS: Statistically significant intervention effects were found for general health, perceived quantitative demands at work, participation and development opportunities at work and in support at work. Seven categories of experiences from participating were identified: talking to others in a similar situation, knowledge, sense of belonging, self-confidence, structure, relief of symptoms and behavioural change.

CONCLUSION: Peer-support groups using a problem-based method could be a useful and comparatively inexpensive tool in alleviating work-related stress and burnout.

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