Reducing the risk of burnout in end-of-life care settings: the role of daily spiritual experiences and training

Palliat Support Care. 2005 Sep;3(3):173-81. doi: 10.1017/s1478951505050297.


Objective: Individuals in the helping professions are subject to unique stressors that may lead to burnout, and research has shown that those who work with dying or bereaved individuals might be particularly at-risk. This study explores how factors such as spirituality and level of training might buffer the stress of working with terminally ill clients and their families.

Method: A total of 80 medical and mental health practitioners attending palliative care seminars were surveyed, with each completing validated measures of daily spiritual experiences and caregiver burnout, as well as assessments of demographic factors, their general education and training experiences specific to working in end-of-life care and bereavement settings.

Results: Findings indicate that daily spiritual experiences might mitigate physical, cognitive, and emotional forms of burnout in the workplace. In addition, a negative correlation was found between the amount of end-of-life training received and burnout in the physical and cognitive domains. However, training was not related to professionals' level of emotional exhaustion.

Significance of the research: Results reinforce a growing literature on the salutary effects of spirituality, and underscore its relevance as one possible form of constructive coping for professionals attending to the needs of the dying and bereaved. The study carries further implications for how the stresses of such work might be ameliorated by enhanced training efforts, as well as creative facilitation of diverse spiritual expressions (e.g., inclusive forms of ritual recognition of loss) in the workplace.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bereavement
  • Burnout, Professional / prevention & control*
  • Education, Professional
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk
  • Spirituality*
  • Tennessee
  • Terminal Care*