Author: Wan, Kin-man
Title: Exploratory study of social workers' experiences related to burnout in Shenzhen, mainland China
Degree: DSW
Year: 2018
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Social workers -- Job stress -- China -- Shenzhen Shi
Burn out (Psychology)
Department: Department of Applied Social Sciences
Pages: x, 248 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: As a newly developing profession in Mainland China, social work carries its political mission from the State on one side and profession ideologies rooted in the West on the other, the challenges are foreseeable. Failure to overcome the challenges may lead to burnout of social workers and deter them from the profession and thus lead to a great hindrance in the profession's development. The predicaments of Shenzhen social workers might have been ignored at the expense of the rapid development of the profession propelled by the State. However, studies conducted on the burnout of social workers in Mainland China are very limited and very few are on Shenzhen social workers. Existing studies follow Western practice, which are mostly quantitative and comparatively problem-oriented; this fails to capture the in-depth stories of social workers along their social work journey. This research aims to explore Shenzhen social workers' experiences related to burnout such as what contributed to their burnout, how burnout was coped with and how they perceived burnout in their social work journey. These questions are to be explored in relation to the contextual characteristics of Shenzhen and Mainland China. Therefore, this is a qualitative exploratory study. A 4P framework (political, professional, public and personal aspects) is applied to the study using semi-structured in-depth interviews. Eight research participants are selected through purposive sampling of social worker posts in Shenzhen through referrals. The interviews are transcribed verbatim and analysed narratively. After undertaking a level-by-level conceptualization of the data, six themes emerged from the coding framework: 'conception of social work', 'personal meaning' ( the social work profession for participants), 'burnout related experiences', 'causes of burnout', 'coping and protective factors', and 'insights gained from burnout related experiences'.
Findings indicate that positive and negative forces co-exist in all 4P aspects and serve to influence social workers. Meanwhile, destructive and constructive functions co-exist in burnout. The dual effect of risk and coping factors is crucial. Findings show that burnout is 'normal' to the research participants and serves as an integral part of a their career, by which the social worker may gain insight, possibly go through transformative learning, begins to understand what is ideal in reality and optimizes the positive and negative forces in their social work journey. A developmental perspective is suggested for understanding burnout, which will serve as an alternative and is supplementary to the commonly used existing pathological perspective. This study suggests that contextualization of burnout is important for understanding it. In preparation for encountering burnout, it is recommended that it should be considered as an issue in social work education curriculum and in-service training. At the same time, effective indigenous social work supervision should be developed to help social workers handle burnout and for further personal and professional growth using a developmental perspective. Alternatively, consideration of burnout may also serve as a reminder for the social work profession to review the obstacles and opportunities for its development in Mainland China. This also serves as a reminder of the importance of contextualizing knowledge in suitable stages of social work development. This research is significant for its stereoscopic picture of burnout.
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