Understanding formal caregivers and work stress
Current demand for long-term care exceeds the available resources. Review of the literature suggests work stress is a common experience for non-health professionals in paid caregiving roles (formal caregivers), and the experience differs depending on the context. However, no New Zealand (NZ)-based studies were identified in the literature review, and as such, it is unclear which factors contribute to work stress for formal caregivers in the unique NZ context. Furthermore, very few studies explicitly set out to explore the experience of work stress for this population. To meet the increasing demand for long-term care, it is important to enhance understanding of, and address the work stress that formal caregivers’ experience. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of work stress of formal caregivers in the Auckland region. This study used an interpretive descriptive methodology. Data from n=10 formal caregivers was collected using semi-structured in-depth face-to-face interviews. Data was analysed using thematic analysis to identify key categories and themes that captured participant reports of their experiences. Findings suggested that formal caregivers experienced high levels of work stress, possibly leading to negative outcomes for the caregivers themselves, and their patients. Key themes were: having too much work to do, having no control over the work, feeling undervalued and under constant pressure, and not having sufficient resources to provide quality care for patients. Analysis and interpretation suggested: the caregivers’ roles to be a complex and fluid experience as a result of an inherent, dynamic tension between the reasons to be a caregiver and the burden of caregiving. However, the impact that stress had on caregivers and their work appeared to depend on a range of factors that are potentially modifiable. These related to the person’s context, their work environment, and their coping strategies. Despite there being a significant body of work identifying stress as a component of caregiving roles, this appears to be the first NZ study explicitly setting out to explore work stress experiences of formal caregivers working at long-term care facilities. The findings contribute to the current knowledge about formal caregivers’ work stress by identifying the challenges relating to the lack of recognition of formal caregivers’, the unintended consequences of person-centred care and particular difficulties experienced by migrant formal caregivers. This study has increased understanding of how formal caregivers experience work stress and demonstrated the complexity of that experience. The findings of this study could be used to guide the development of interventions aiming to improve both the work environment and caregivers’ ability to cope with stress.