Quality in early childhood education services is a dynamic and multifactorial concept. It includes both evident and hidden aspect, such as the wellbeing perceived by different actors within the organization, particularly with respect to educators. It is clear that the wellbeing of nursery professionals is a very important aspect in order to support quality in daily work with children. The reflections presented in the paper are part of a project for the implementation of pedagogical quality within an Italian network of kindergartens. Among the actions carried out, of great interest is the promotion of the professional well-being of the in-service educators. In literature there are many studies that analysed the wellbeing dimension for care and social workers. Despite the importance of this topic, the role of factors related to the risk of burnout has not been sufficiently investigated. Despite the rewards of working with children in the 0 to 3 years old field can be many, the emotional and the physical burden for these professionals can become a potential source of un-wellness.
According to the National library of Medicine, the term “burnout” coined in the 1970 by the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, describes the consequences of severe stress experienced by people working in “caring” professions (Doctors and nurses, for instance,). Nowadays, the term is not only used for these caring professions. It seems it can affect anyone. “Burnout” has become a popular term. It is surprising then that there is no clear definition of what burnout really is and this is a problem because it is difficult to get a diagnosis.(diagnosis)
Possible symptoms are: emotional and physical exhaustion; reduced performance; disillusion; lack of empathy… People who live a burnout experience could become depressed, unmotivated in their work, emotionally empty and discouraged
The research aimed:
- to investigate the risk of burnout in 98 nursery professionals who work in an Italian kindergaten networkt;
- to identify possible indicators of burn-out;
- to know the training needs mostly felt by the working teams, in order to realize specific training or psycho-pedagogical support and supervision.
The research project developed according to the “action research” methodology, often used for the qualitative analysis in the field of educational research. Action research is a way of questioning your own practice and changing it as a result of the study. In this study two kind of research tools have been used: - The LBQ tests (Link Burnout Questionnaire) is composed of 24 items grouped in four dimensions (8 items for each dimension, 4 positive and 4 negative): - Psycho-physical exhaustion: when we have no more mental and physical resources; it is the is the perception that it has run out of steam; - Deterioration of the relationship: that is the difficulty in being able to pay sufficient attention to the particular needs of each child; to experience indifference and detachment; - Professional Inefficacy, perception of not being able to competently perform my job; - Disillusion: feeling of having lost the passion for the profession Scores are distributed along a scale of values between 0 and 9: low scores- and so low risk of burnout (1-3) , medium risk (4-6) and high risk (7-9). - The semi-structured interviews. One of the innovative aspects of this action research is represented by the interviews realized by two different professionals: a psychologist and a pedagogist. In particular, psychological competence is linked to the need to investigate any signs of personal or professional difficulty of educators. The pedagogical interview pays attention to professional inefficacy and training needs of operators. The sample is composed by 98 people, 97 F and 1 M (educators and nursery’s coordinators) working in 12 different nurseries. All participants signed an informed consent form and voluntarily joined the research.
The research aims to identify training needs (individual and group) and to realize specific training or psycho-pedagogicial support and supervision. The findings can be applied in future studies and can be used to inform intervention in order to improve working conditions in early childhood services. The results point out possible indicators of burnout in nursery professionals, training needs mostly felt by different working team.
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