The relationship of formal peer support and burnout in professional social workers working with HIV AIDS infected clients

Denise Maria Ellis, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between organized peer support and burnout in MSWs who work with HIV/AIDS infected clients. MSWs working with these clients face unique stressors and demands and are at risk of burnout. Reduction of burnout is critical in order to help social workers cope effectively and continue the services needed by HIV/AIDS infected clients. Formal peer support groups are considered to be one important modifier of work-related stress and consequently of the burnout that may occur in progressive stages, ultimately leading to an inability to function adequately.^ This was a cross-sectional, explanatory study. The examined variables were: peer support, burnout, personal and professional characteristics of the social workers, and client and agency characteristics. A questionnaire method was employed to measure the variables.^ The sample consisted of 119 MSWs, all of whom worked in direct practice with HIV/AIDS infected clients. The sample was drawn from the Social Work AIDS Network, hospitals and community based AIDS service organizations in the New York metropolitan area. The sample was obtained in three stages and all data were anonymously self-reported. Respondents were compared on all variables and whether or not they were members of a peer support group.^ Conclusions drawn from the study were: (1) MSWs who join peer support groups appear to be more vulnerable to burnout than those who do not join. (2) Participation in a peer support group for those who are vulnerable to peer support may modify burnout and possibly keep the burnout from being higher. (3) MSWs who do not join peer support groups appear to prefer handling work stress and problems themselves as opposed to reaching out to peers. (4) MSWs with and without being given the choice to work with HIV/AIDS clients are just as likely to burn out. (5) Length of time working with HIV/AIDS infected clients is not an indicator of burnout for MSWs. (6) Client age is not a predictor of burnout. (7) Whether white or black, MSWs who work with this client population are just as likely to burn out. ^

Subject Area

Social work|Public policy

Recommended Citation

Ellis, Denise Maria, "The relationship of formal peer support and burnout in professional social workers working with HIV AIDS infected clients" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9534286.