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Burnout among primary healthcare workers during implementation of integrated mental healthcare in rural Ethiopia: a cohort study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Medhin Selamu, Charlotte Hanlon, Girmay Medhin, Graham Thornicroft, Abebaw Fekadu

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
JournalHuman Resources For Health
Issue number1
Early online date18 Jul 2019
Accepted/In press5 Jun 2019
E-pub ahead of print18 Jul 2019
Published18 Jul 2019


King's Authors


BACKGROUND: The short-term course of burnout in healthcare workers in low- and middle-income countries has undergone limited evaluation. The aim of this study was to assess the short-term outcome of burnout symptoms in the context of implementation of a new mental health programme in a rural African district.

METHODS: We followed up 145 primary healthcare workers (HCWs) working in 66 rural primary healthcare (PHC) facilities in Southern Ethiopia, where a new integrated mental health service was being implemented. Burnout was assessed at baseline, i.e. when the new service was being introduced, and after 6 months. Data were collected through self-administered questionnaires, including the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) and instruments measuring professional satisfaction and psychosocial factors. Generalised estimating equations (GEE) were used to assess the association between change in the core dimension of burnout (emotional exhaustion) and relevant work-related and psychosocial factors.

RESULTS: A total of 136 (93.8%) of HCWs completed and returned their questionnaires at 6 months. There was a non-significant reduction in the burnout level between the two time points. In GEE regression models, high depression symptom scores (adjusted mean difference (aMD) 0.56, 95% CI 0.29, 0.83, p < 0.01), experiencing two or more stressful life events (aMD 1.37, 95% CI 0.06, 2.14, p < 0.01), being a community health extension worker vs. facility-based HCW (aMD 5.80, 95% CI 3.21, 8.38, p < 0.01), perceived job insecurity (aMD 0.73, 95% CI 0.08, 1.38, p = 0.03) and older age (aMD 0.36, 95% CI 0.09, 0.63, p = 0.01) were significantly associated with higher levels of emotional exhaustion longitudinally.

CONCLUSION: In the short-term, there was no significant change in the level of burnout in the context of adding mental healthcare to the workload of HCWs. However, longer term and larger scale studies are required to substantiate this. This evidence can serve as baseline information for an intervention development to enhance wellbeing and reduce burnout.

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