Exploring effort–reward imbalance and professional quality of life among health workers in Cape Town, South Africa: a mixed-methods study

N. Jensen, C. Lund, Z. Abrahams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
82 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background
In the context of a growing appreciation for the wellbeing of the health workforce as the foundation of high-quality, sustainable health systems, this paper presents findings from two complementary studies to explore occupational stress and professional quality of life among health workers that were conducted in preparation for a task-shifting intervention to improve antenatal mental health services in Cape Town.

Methods
This mixed-methods, cross-sectional study was conducted in public sector Midwife Obstetric Units and associated Non-Profit Organisations in Cape Town. Semi-structured interviews and a quantitative survey were conducted among facility-and community-based professional and lay health workers. The survey included demographic as well as effort–reward imbalance (ERI) and professional quality of life (PROQOL) questionnaires to examine overall levels of work-related psychosocial stress and professional quality of life, as well as differences between lay and professional health workers. Qualitative data was analysed using a thematic content analysis approach. Quantitative data was analysed using STATA 12.

Results
Findings from 37 qualitative interviews highlighted the difficult working conditions and often limited reward and support structures experienced by health workers. Corroborating these findings, our quantitative survey of 165 professional and lay health workers revealed that most health workers experienced a mismatch between efforts spent and rewards gained at work (61.1% of professional and 70.2% of lay health workers; p = 0.302). There were few statistically significant differences in ERI and PROQOL scores between professional and lay health workers. Although Compassion Satisfaction was high for all health worker groups, lay health workers also showed elevated levels of burnout and compassion fatigue, with community-based health workers particularly affected.

Conclusions
Findings of this study add to the existing evidence base on adverse working conditions faced by South African public-sector health workers that should be taken into consideration as national and local governments seek to ‘re-engineer’ South Africa’s Primary Health Care system. Furthermore, they also highlight the importance of taking into consideration the wellbeing of health workers themselves to develop interventions that can sustainably foster resilient and high-quality health systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7
JournalGlobal Health Research and Policy
Volume7
Issue number1
Early online date1 Mar 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022

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