n Mental Health Matters - Burnout among healthcare professionals and its implications in South Africa

Volume 3, Issue 6
  • ISSN :


The term burnout seems to have entered common usage during the 1970s and is attributed to Freudenberger who defined it as a state of emotional exhaustion that occurs in workers who deal in public service. Later, two researchers, Maslach and Jackson, further clarified the concept of burnout in the Maslach Burnout Inventory manual as "a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who work with people in some capacity". This has remained the accepted definition among most of the research literature on burnout with some slight revisions along the way. Emotional Exhaustion refers to the complete draining of one's emotional reserves often accompanied by physical and mental fatigue. Depersonalisation, sometimes used interchangeably with cynicism, refers to the negative, sometimes harsh, attitude that the burnt out individuals can develop towards clients treating them in an impersonal, detached manner. Reduced Personal Accomplishment refers to the feelings of inadequacy and incompetence in one's work that the individual with burnout eventually begins to experience. Although not specific to healthcare workers, the Maslach Burnout Inventory is the most widely accepted assessment tool for measuring the degree of burnout in an individual. After further testing and research by others over the years the Maslach Burnout Inventory is considered a valid measurement of the burnout construct.

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