GENETIC COUNSELOR BURNOUT OFTEN RELATED TO STRESS, DEPRESSION
Jane Engelberg Memorial Fellowship Winner
Reports Baseline Data from Meditation Study
CHICAGO – Nov. 18, 2020 – While nine in 10 genetic counselors are satisfied with their profession, 57% report suffering from burnout, much of it associated with stress and depression, according to research being presented at the at the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) 39th Annual Conference.
The data were gathered as part of an ongoing study on the benefits of meditation among genetic counselors. The study is being supported by the Jane Engelberg Memorial Fellowship (JEMF), a highly prestigious award of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) awarded to the investigators in 2019.
“Burnout is not only more common in genetic counselors than doctors and nurses, it is the most frequent reason cited for leaving the profession, so it’s vital to understand what leads to this problem,” said Colleen Caleshu, MS, LCGC, co-lead investigator of the study and senior director of research at GeneMatters, Minneapolis. “The hope is this information can help both genetic counselors and their managers identify possible strategies for preventing burnout in the workplace and responding to it when it does develop.”
Researchers assessed baseline data from 397 genetic counselors who are taking part in the meditation study, and determined 227 (57.3%) suffered from burnout. They found that factors associated with burnout included: individual factors such as stress, depression, lack of sufficient self-care and lower levels of resilience; and work-system factors such as insufficient autonomy and administrator support and not feeling valued by non-genetic counselor colleagues. More than a third of the burnout – 36.4% -- was explained by depression and stress, though most genetic counselors with burnout did not have either stress or depression.
“What’s unclear is which came first – perhaps chronic stress leads to depression which leads to burnout. Or stress can cause burnout that leads to depression. Or a combination, which may be different for different people,” said Caleshu. “But what’s clear is these issues need to be addressed to decrease the potential affects of burnout, which include poor mental health and quality of life, increased medical errors and even leaving the profession. In our larger study, we hope to determine if meditation can alleviate burnout, whatever the cause.”
MaryAnn Campion, EdD, MS, CGC is co-investigator of the meditation study, a randomized, controlled trial that includes 397 genetic counselors and 208 genetic counseling students. Results are expected next year.