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High stress job?

2009

Hi everyone, I am hoping to get some opinions ...
 
I am in the process of completing my Bachelor of Child and Youth Care with a Child Welfare Specialization. Whenever I tell people what my degree will be in I seem to get a similar response: People seem think that the burnout rate for this type of work is so high that I will be stressed out in the first year!!! Many people have said that many Social Workers end up on stress leave.

I am just wondering how people in the field feel about this?  Is working for the ministry a high stress job? Do you know what they offer to their employees to help "burn out" from happening? Any other advice??
  
Please share you thoughts.
 
Thank you!

Laurie Mossey
...
  

Hello Laurie,
 
My name is Tanya and I am in my second year at Mount Royal University in the Child and Youth Care Counselor Diploma. I have heard a lot of people talk about how stressful our jobs are and how high the burn out rate is. I do believe that there is a high burnout rate for people in the child care profession, however I do believe it can be avoided by focusing on self-care. We preach to others that they must first take care of themselves and then they are equipped to help others. However, it is not always practiced by the professionals themselves. If we do not take care of ourselves then we are not going to be able to help those that truly need our help.
 
 Self-care is drilled into our heads as students ever since we started the program. It does not have to be whole day events, it can be as small as sitting back in your chair for a moment, closing your eyes and thinking of what show you are going to watch that night! It is important for professionals to learn and understand their boundaries and how events or topics may affect them. Understanding this will help to work through it (self care) and move on from it so that it does not build up and lead to burning out!
 
 I am still learning about myself and how I handle certain things and how I deal with certain issues. I am learning though that through self care, I am better able to handle situations because I allow myself to stop, take a moment and relax. For instance, I can become very emotional when I hear about a situation a youth has encountered. I know I can not stress out about it and I will go walk the stairs for five minutes to de-stress, separate myself from the issue ( self care) and then I can go back and help the youth. I try to practice self care on a daily basis. I will walk my dog everyday after work and just focus on that moment. Some days I will just walk the stairs at practicum when I am feeling overwhelmed or I just dealt with a stressful or emotional situation.
 
Working in the childcare field is not always a happy and easy line of work. However, childcare professionals are the most important people in our society and they are not acknowledged as often as they should be. Making sure to take at least few minutes a day for yourself could help!
 
Thank you and good luck on the rest of your schooling:)
 
Tanya Davis
...

A few other thoughts on burnout from a former youth care worker, teacher, counselor and now program manager:
 
1. Don't take on the kid's problems which are always more than you can possibly handle.  Let the kids handle their problems and just be there as a support when they could use some new POSSIBLE solutions or ideas.  Your belief that they have all the inner resources necessary (although not fully developed, yet) to resolve their own problems is important.
 
2. Get into a routine.  When you have a pre-set routine of greeting kids, preparing for transitions, handling conflicts, documenting events and incidents, then these simple things don't eat up so much energy every day. Even on our worst day, if we have a routine ingrained inside, we can follow it.
 
3. Be at work early and stay late. This gives you time to prepare yourself for the day and for unwinding before you go home and hit traffic. Rushing to work and home are big stressors. (even 15 minutes is enough for most, I believe. Teachers, probably 1 hour) For me coming in early is usually more important than staying late.
 
4. Check inside and make sure that you love to work with kids.  If you don't, you are probably missing out on something else great in your life that you would love to do.  Even if you really care about kids and want to make a difference; if you don't like being around them, don't be.  There are plenty of ways to help youth without working with them directly.  Agencies always need administrative volunteers or workers.
 
Personally, I do better when I remember not to see anyone as a victim or judge their situation or society as unfair or bad or wrong.  I like to see each child as capable of learning and growing within their own problem set or "curriculum".  I like to prepare and have a routine so that I know what I am going to do already before it happens.  I go nuts when I don't have a routine ingrained.  And I don't feel free to really spend time with each child because I am worrying about what I'm supposed to be doing.  If something completely unpredictable happens I have more energy in reserve to deal with it.  I know I am at my best when I can relax at the beginning and at the end of the day with plenty of time to prepare for and evaluate the day and then go home.  I love working with kids, their humor, their singing, their laughter, seeing them change and grow and challenge me.  All the relationship dynamics fascinate me.  This is what works for me and as I would tell young people, "if it works for you, use it and if it doesn't, don't.   I'm sure you can find a way that works for you."
 
Alfonso Ramirez, Jr.
...
 
Hello all,
 
For me, it does work to read at night. Something that really brings me into another world is reading Opra magazine while I am working out in the gym.
 
Carmen
...
 
Hello to all my colleagues,
 
I am a Youth Protection Social Worker in Montreal.  In my humble opinion, asking if Child and Youth care work is a "high stress" job is basically asking about bears and their toilet habits.  Nevertheless, I believe that people who ask this type question show that they possess a certain level of maturity, inquisitiveness and intelligence that often lack in people who enter the field blindly without asking questions. Consequently they remain clueless of the severity of the psychological beating they will be enduring from the high level of stress associated with this job. 
 
In the past, when I met students or individuals who were either doing their practicum or starting work in my place of employment I greeted them with a happy "Welcome to hell".  That was my way of warning them about the dangers and pitfalls associated with this type of work.  Unfortunately, I was told by colleagues that I had to stop such practice because it was not well seen by individuals who hold positions of power.  It appears that I was scaring the "clueless".  I was once reprimanded for an email I sent out to colleagues describing my experiences both good and bad prior to switching to another division within my place of employment.  The slap on the wrist was done under the umbrella that I was once again "scaring people" about the job.  A letter was put in my employee file.  From that moment on I felt that as a collective we were rendering a great disservice to all "probies" who were not aware or blind to the fact that "Hells Kitchen" was not only a television show or a geographical location but also the environment in which we all work in regardless of the efforts made by the employer to make it as easy and comfortable as possible for all of us.  Although contrary to what we are told I admit having heard through the rumour mill that sometimes employers give their workers from one hand while never hesitating to "slap" them with the other hand while they are not looking. Tsk-Tsk-Tsk not good practice.  Getting whacked usually scares people.
 
The relentless pressure we are all under to perform is also another type of stress under which we fall victim.  Many have difficulty juggling the administrative duties (i.e. reports, stats, progress notes and so on) and the much needed clinical interventions with clients.  We are told that administrative duties are most important.  We go home at night worrying about meeting deadlines rather than asking ourselves if we had provided our clients with the best services possible.  We are put in positions whereas talking to colleagues no longer has to do with clinical aspects of the job but rather about how we are going to meet insane deadlines, who we have to stroke within our own litter boxes to get what we and our clients need, who received a great kick in the butt for not being on top of their paperwork and "What the hell were they thinking about when they rewarded a worker because they smile all day long".  As it relates to the awards no one ever wondered that maybe they smile because they do not want others to know that they are either  falling to pieces right there in front of our own very eyes or that they are so incompetent that they are clueless of what is going on around them.  This brings to mind a T-Shirt once worn by a colleague where it as written "I have no idea what's going on".  Good laughs are hard to come by.
 
As we all have our own reality I will then speak solely of my own.  I try to balance the enormous administrative tasks, the telephone calls I have to make or return, the visits I have to make to the homes of my clients, the interventions I provide to my young clients and their families, the mega number of clinical team meetings I must attend, the emergencies I have to deal with, the placements I have to make or at least participate in, the this and the that and other things too numerous to mention.  I would compare it to juggling chainsaws.  Indeed I have cracked under the pressure not because of all my duties but rather because of my caring more about my clients that all the asinine forms I have to fill out and the deadlines I have to meet.  As a matter of fact some call me the "self proclaimed child advocate" in a derogatory fashion of course just because I sometimes have the audacity to speak up for my clients' rights.  If I have to speak up for their rights it's because there exist others who consistently and continuously infringe upon them and then get upset when they are found out as they do not believe that they should be held accountable for their actions or lack thereof.  I do not have the need to be a "martyr".  I believe that we are all child advocates in our own rights.  If not us then who?   
 
So, basically what I am trying to say here is that stress falls upon us like bullets from the sky during war.  They come at us from unsuspected sources, rapidly, steadily, continuously and in a sneaky manner.  In this type of work it is one of our most fearless nemesis.  It's there and it's not going anywhere.  The unfortunate part is that it has allies that help it along in getting darker, obese and more refine in its attacks.  Here I name our governments, the bureaucracy, mountains of administrative duties, the demands issued from above for workers to perform as if we were executive members of a multinational oil company, asinine policies and regulations, the lack of respect for each other, workers who just want to climb the ladder for their own self serving purposes, the lack of respect from above and most of all the lack of caring about what we do.  Social services agencies can be compared now a days to corporate magnums who think nothing of building nuclear plants in an impoverished area and who operate sweat shops without conscience.
 
All this rant to send you the message that stress kills or at least seriously maims.  It originates from nowhere and everywhere all at once. Owing to those facts, all of us need to take care of ourselves by walking our dogs, exercising, taking a step back while at work, stepping out of the job and into another world when in the company of our loved ones wherever we are, talking to others about our difficulties at work such as with a member of the Employee Assistance Program, ensuring that our rights are being respected and that our work gets the respect and recognition it deserves in all it's aspects.   Do not count on your neighbour at work for this because although they might show that they care they are most likely too busy trying to remain above water to give a rat's ass about what is going on around them.  It's up to us and not up to "them" to care for ourselves.   Most importantly I suggest that we all try to stay away from fighting windmills because if we insist in doing so and take on the "Machine" alone then there will sooner than later come a time when our professional death will arrive without warning.
 
You deserve all the data available to make an informed decision related to the type of work you want to do.  You really need to stay away if you cannot handle the pressure.  You really need to stay away if all you need is to play saviour.  Most importantly you need to stay away if you can't handle knowing that
 
"When I get to the bottom
I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and turn
and I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again"
 
(Helter Skelter by the Beatles)
 
If you want to do this job because it brings you something so personal (obviously not the money) that it cannot be explained in words, I'm not talking about such corn as wanting to help others, and you can be content with very tiny rewards then you are "it".   Owing to the fact that you own it, it becomes your duty to decide in all good conscience if this field is your forum to grow.  If such is the case then "Welcome to Hell".

Yvan Fullum
...
 

Hi Guys, loved the variety of responses, especially the Beatles quote from Yvan. My tip is always do the thing you dread most dealing with first. It frees you up to then focus on the primary task. Work with everyone in an open and reflective manner, don't contain 'bad stuff' - name it and keep it out there. Always be questioning and provoke cogitative dissonance in middle managers, bean counters, professionals with a different value base. "Would this be acceptable for your children?" is a useful phrase.
 
Peace,
Jeremy Millar
Scotland
...

Hi everyone.
I totally agree with Jeremy regarding asking ourselves the question: "Would this be acceptable for our children?" It covers absolutely every issue you can think of, including administering psychotropic medications, using physical retraints, all discipline issues, school attendance (or lack thereof), I could go on, but you get my meaning. It is a very powerful question and has served me well both in the field as a practitioner and manager and in the classroom as a teacher.
 
Thanks for the reminder Jeremy!

Dawne MacKay-Chiddenton
...
 
Hi Everyone;
 
This (BELOW) was a very good study. Again, emphasising individual responsibility and employer responsibility.
 
Jason Guay
Niagara, Canada
_
 
BBC - Health
Tackle work stress, bosses told
By Nick Triggle
Health reporter, BBC News
 
More than 13m days a year are lost at work because of stress and anxiety  Employers need to pay more attention to the levels of stress and anxiety in the workplace, key NHS advisers say. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said the cost of work-related mental illness was £28bn - a quarter of the UK's total sick bill.

Bad managers were the single biggest cause of problems, the group claimed. But it said simple steps such as giving positive feedback, allowing flexible working and giving extra days off as a reward could cut the impact by a third. As well as taking measures like these, NICE urged employers to invest in training for managers and mentoring for staff to help career development.
 
The toll of stress
Yasmin, 37, from Wokingham in Berkshire, used to be employed by a large financial company as a tax accountant. Despite having had no previous problems, stress lead to her taking nearly fours years off work.
Yasmin was prescribed around 30 different anti-depressants before a combination was found that worked for her.

She said: "I lost all sense of self-worth and self-confidence. I felt useless, hopeless and a waste of space."
More than 13m working days a year are lost because of work-related stress, anxiety and depression.
Once the pay of staff, lost productivity and replacing ill employees are taken into account, the cost to employers hit £28.3bn a year.

To convince employers to act, NICE has designed a calculator to show the potential savings of supporting staff more. It suggests that for the average firm of 1,000 staff, £250,000 a year could be saved. Professor Cary Cooper, an expert in psychology from Lancaster University who helped draw up the recommendations, said: "You cannot underestimate the importance of saying well done to staff, but so often it does not happen. Managers will tell you when you are doing something wrong, but not when you are doing it right."
 
Recession
But he said the problem was not just to do with staff taking time off. "Presenteeism, where people come to work but add no value, is if anything more of a problem, especially during a recession. People are so scared that they go to work when they are not fit to," said Prof Cooper.

His remarks are supported by a recent survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development which revealed a quarter of UK workers describe their mental health as moderate or poor, yet nearly all continued to work regularly.

The NICE report said with the right environment work can even be a force for good as it can offer stability, purpose, friendship and distraction.
Dame Carol Black, the government national director for health and work, who produced a report calling on employers to take more of an interest in the health of their workforce last year, welcomed the recommendations. She said it provided "clear, practical advice to promote mental well-being".
But a spokesman for the Confederation of British Industry said: "The mental health of staff is something firms have been making a priority. More and more schemes have been set up to support staff in recent years."
...

Hi Laurie,
 
I am also a second year student at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
 
I agree with Tanya regarding making 'self-care' a priority in our lives.  Although this industry is not necessarily a physically demanding job it will certainly be emotionally demanding.  There is such a range of issues we will have to deal with as Child and Youth Care Counsellors that there is bound to be something that comes up every now and then which will hit a nerve in each and every one of us.  This is not a job where we can get up from a desk at the end of each day and leave our work at the office. There are situations, emotions, and clients we will not be able to get out of our head the second we walk out the door at the end of a shift.
 
We have been fortunate with our professors at Mount Royal University in that they have been very proactive in making us aware of self-care so far as scheduling a day where we have no class and deeming it a 'self-care day'.  It didnt matter what we did, but it was not supposed to entail homework.  Whether we chose to spend that day out of town, going for a walk, shopping, a manicure, or just watching a movie.  As long as we did something for ourselves.  I think we need to be selfish in that aspect and take our days off as time to enjoy, and taking a personal day when needed.
 
I also think we have to recognize we can't do it all and we cannot save everyone.  Once we accept that we will find it a little easier to not be so hard on ourselves.  We need to be able to recognize when a certain situation is not the best one for us to handle and not be afraid to ask our colleagues for assistance.
 
Good Luck!
 
Robyn Bocking,
Calgary
...
 
Hi all,
 
Yes, selfcare is very important in all aspects of life and to be aware of this is a good step. It is also important for your employer to recognize the importance of selfcare, and to be able to recognize when staff are taking care to ensure that they are able to give their best to the young people they serve. The BBC presented an article a few weeks back that spoke to stress in the work place and what strategies the employer can use to assist employees better manage work related stress. I am sorry I cannot provide information to that link, however I seem to remember it being in the BBC health news.

James Hartley
...

Here is the link to the BBC article reference in the previous posting:
 
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8343074.stm
 
Gregory Manning
...

James,
 
What you say is so important.  The most stressful environments sometimes exist because staff are not trained adequately.  They aren't trained how to handle conflict, it is not clear what their job responsibilities are and there is no regular supervision meetings provided.

 Alfonso Ramirez
...
  
I agree with this view on sdlf-care strongly. If employees are happy and healthy they will have a much better job performance than someone who is over stressed. It is important to take the steps necessary to make sure that stress is released through self care.
 
Employers have a huge role in this as well. Not all, but some managers take their stress out on employees when they are not doing well; which is why employees feel pushed to do more than they can handle at times, to please management. Management needs to make sure they reward staff and tell them they are doing well, when they are. Happy employees are likely to take fewer sick days due to the fact they like their jobs and feel confident going into work, rather than broken down because of what they are being told by their employers.

Gurpreet Sandhu
_______

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