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Substance Use, Stress and Mental Health: Burnout Factors in Health Care Personnel Trainees

Timothy J.R Little, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Substance and alcohol misuse continues to be a ballooning problem both domestically and around the world. Especially impacted are health care personnel and associated trainees in low agency, high stress positions. Consequently, health care personnel and trainees have been shown to be maladaptively coping, burning out, and experiencing increased negative mental health symptoms. Past research has mostly focused on health care professionals under national health care standards and medical licensure board protections. No such universal protections or standards are available for healthcare trainees still in school. Evidence suggests that maladaptive coping, negative mental health symptoms and burnout levels are beginning earlier in training than previously thought. Informed by health care literature and burnout and substance misuse coping models, the present study aimed to examine how screening and brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT) combined with a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) skill-building workshop influenced burnout, maladaptive coping (e.g., substance misuse) and negative mental health symptoms throughout the course of a health care trainee semester. 114 incoming freshmen consented to participate in research. During the study, participants were assessed for substance misuse, burnout, and negative mental health symptoms at baseline; were randomly assigned to a mindfulness-based stress reduction workshop or stress management educational control group. Participants then received customized risk feedback based on data provided (SBIRT). The study then reassessed substance misuse, burnout and negative mental health symptoms at the 1-month and 3-month post workshop timepoints. A series of regression and mixed model ANCOVAs were conducted to test study hypotheses. Participants with higher levels of mental health symptoms and burnout reported using greater substance misuse. The MBSR workshop was not significantly different than the educational control group at lowering substance misuse, burnout and mental health symptoms at both the 1-month and 3-month data collection periods for incoming freshman health care trainees. Various study limitations and future directions are identified. Further research is needed to elucidate factors that contribute to health care trainee burnout and maladaptive coping.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology|Nursing|Mental health

Recommended Citation

Little, Timothy J.R, "Substance Use, Stress and Mental Health: Burnout Factors in Health Care Personnel Trainees" (2022). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI29260618.