Abstract: Building Community Power through Research to Understand How Healthcare Job Quality Harmed Workers' Mental Health and Contributed to the Great Resignation (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

Building Community Power through Research to Understand How Healthcare Job Quality Harmed Workers' Mental Health and Contributed to the Great Resignation

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Hospitality 2 - Room 444, 4th Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Kess Ballentine, PhD, MSW, MA, Assistant Professor, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Jihee Woo, PhD, Post-Graduate Researcher, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Hollen Tillman, MSW, Research Coordinator, University of Pittsburgh
Jeff Shook, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh, PA
Sara Goodkind, PhD, MSW, Professor, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Background: Healthcare has replaced manufacturing as a primary industry in many rust-belt cities. Though the ethos of healthcare advocates health and wellness, healthcare has long been one of the most unsafe U.S. industries for employees. COVID-19 has exacerbated these long-standing problems, with 60% of U.S. healthcare workers (HCWs) reporting COVID-19-related effects on their mental health, contributing to a national shortage of HCWs. The current study was requested by local policymakers to determine how to better support HCWs, initiating a university-community partnered survey. This presentation reports both process and product, highlighting how community-partnered research can support ongoing community organizing around important issues for social justice and policy change, through examining how job quality and wages interact to affect HCWs’ health.

Method: Researchers and HCWs developed the survey through an iterative process of discussion, proposals, and feedback. Eligible participants included city hospital workers and those who left in the preceding year. The sample (N=1,458) is majority White and female. Sixty percent of respondents were nurses and 64% had at least a bachelor’s degree. To understand differences in wage and type of work, the current study divides the sample into low-paid service workers (<$20/hour, n=233), higher-paid service workers ($20-$30/hour, n=438), and nurses and other highly paid specialist workers (>$30/hour, n=787). Multivariate analyses were used to examine how job quality factors, including pay, paid time off (PTO), and working conditions (staffing, workplace safety, discrimination, and harassment) were associated with burnout, secondary traumatic stress, and compassion satisfaction for each wage-level group, accounting for worker age, race, gender, education, and household income.

Results: Feeling unsafe at work was associated with burnout, secondary traumatic stress, and reduced compassion satisfaction for all wage groups. Additionally, inadequate staffing and workplace discrimination were associated with burnout and secondary traumatic stress for all wage groups. Insufficient PTO was associated with burnout and harassment from patients and visitors with secondary traumatic stress for all wage groups. There were differences across wage groups for other factors and outcomes.

Implications: This study has implications for understanding how job quality factors are associated with aspects of HCWs’ well-being, as well as the process through which researchers and workers can collectively study complex interactions and report them to policymakers. As engaged social work scholars, we recognize how important this process was not only for improving measurement but also for building community power to pressure powerful employers to improve safety and well-being of those who are at once HCWs, health care consumers, and community members. In addition to building power with our partners through this process, this study generated important substantive findings, namely that workplace safety was a consistent factor associated with burnout, secondary trauma, and compassion satisfaction at all wage levels while other factors varied by wage group and outcome. The intersection of labor conditions and mental health is an important area in which more social workers should be involved, and the process of our study presents an effective example for future policy-relevant research partnerships.