2. Social workers help people overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges:
• domestic violence
• child abuse,
Social workers help prevent crises and counsel individuals, families, and
communities to cope more effectively with the stresses of everyday life [NASW].
3. We became social workers to help with problems that affected us or our family or out
of a sense of community. We are often driven by a need to “fix” the most difficult
“people” with the most recalcitrant problems.
But working on these concerns can cause social workers pay a heavy price, success
interventions are often few and far between. One study says 30 percent of licensed
social workers did not plan to remain in their current position for over two years.
Their reasons vary- the intention to search for a job, dissatisfaction or job burnout.
5. What is Burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive
and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed. As the stress continues,
you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the
first place. Burnout reduces your productivity, saps your energy, leaving you feeling
helpless, hopeless, cynical, or resentful.
“Social worker burnout” doesn’t really describe the emotional trauma of having to
6. • You may be on the road to burnout if:
• Every day is a bad day.
• Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy.
• You’re exhausted all the time.
• The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find mind-numbingly dull or
• You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.
7. Studies on social worker retention imply that with the right combination of
incentives, management skills, and cash, seasoned staff can be persuaded to stay on
the job despite their disillusionment or dissatisfaction. This is important, since
next to funding, staffing is a major issue in social work systems, causing difficulty
recruiting and retaining caseworkers.
Considering that helping others was our original motivation, we must be careful
not to be sabotaged by the very compassion and hope that makes us effective social
8. The following steps are simple, but can be very helpful in recovering from burnout
Acknowledge that the job is difficult. Not everyone can do it. If you are past the breaking point, take your
burnout very seriously. Trying to push through exhaustion will only cause further emotional and physical
Turn to your loved ones for support–don’t isolate. Simply sharing your feelings with another person can relieve
some of the stress. The other person doesn’t have to “fix” your problems; he or she just has to be a good
Take time to think about your hopes, goals, and dreams. do you have a career plan? goals for your practice?
Are you neglecting something that is truly important to you? Burnout can be an opportunity to rediscover what
really makes you happy and to change course accordingly.
do something else, whether that means changing jobs or changing careers. if that isn’t an option for you, take a
proactive rather than a passive approach to issues in your workplace. You’ll feel less helpless if you assert
yourself and express your needs.
Take time off. If burnout seems inevitable, take a complete break from work. Go on vacation, use up your sick
days, ask for a temporary leave-of-absence—anything to remove yourself from the situation. Use the time
away to recharge your batteries and take perspective.
Get a life and invest time in it – whether practicing your spirituality, visiting with friends, reading or dancing.
Do something that makes you happy just because it makes you happy. Make time. Balance is the key to
10. Do something that makes you happy just because it
makes you happy. Make time for it. Balance is key to
It would be nice to think the cavalry was on the way to
save your job and your mind but the responsibility
remains with you to keep your dreams of being an
effective happy and heathy social worker alive.
13. Dr. Hawkins is an author, lecturer and researcher. She is currently involved in
writing, researching and lecturing on social policy, ethics and spirituality . She
can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Resume available at LinkedIn