All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Elizabeth H Maples

Advisory Committee Members

Kathleen C Brown

Monica L Baskin

Timothy M Beasley

Riedar K Oestenstad

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2011

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) School of Public Health

Abstract

OCCUPATIONAL STRESS IN VETERINARY SUPPORT STAFF Sandra Morales Foster DOCTOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH ABSTRACT Limited information exists about veterinary support staff and the occupational stressors of this workforce. Concern for workers in occupations of high or prolonged stress such as caregivers in hospitals and emergency situations has been noted in many studies. Occupational stress can cause harmful physical and emotional outcomes when the homeostatic balance is upset. This study explored occupational stress, health status, and coping strategies of veterinary support staff. A mixed-method collected quantitative and qualitative data. Demographic information and three validated instruments were ad-ministered using a web-based survey; the Short Form-36 Version 2, Modified for Veteri-nary Nurse Stress Scale, and Ways of Coping to gain the quantitative data. The survey was administered to a convenience sample of 104 members of the Alabama Veterinary Technician Association and one-on-one interviews were conducted to gather rich descrip-tive information from workers in this profession. A 75% response rate was reached in a two month period. The findings suggested that workload, death and dying, and conflict with veterinarians were the prominent sources of stress. The most frequent coping strategies used were Self Controlling, Planful Problem Solving, and Positive Reapprasaisal. The mental health scores of the participants were found to be lower than the U.S. norms of 50. Quantitative and qualitative data validated each other in all aspects of mental health, indicating that veterinary support staff have low mental health status; with 45% below the U.S. norms and 42% at U.S. norms. A correlation with health status and occupational stressors indicated those with higher perceived stress have lower mental and physical health. Interviews supported this finding. Six out of eight coping strategies were found to have a relationship with mental health status Accepting Responsibility, Escape Avoidance, Positive Reappraisal, Seeking Social Support and Self Controlling. The findings from this study indicate this is a vulnerable workforce experiencing high stress affecting the health of the workers. The coping strategies utilized used by this workforce have been linked with negative outcomes. Further investigation into interven-tions targeting this occupation is needed to promote a healthy workforce.

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