Prediction of grief and HIV/AIDS-related burnout in volunteers

W. H. Nesbitt, M. W. Ross, R. H. Sunderland, E. Shelp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Burnout in volunteer workers in the HIV/AIDS area results in the loss of dedicated personnel, consequently straining the HIV/AIDS care delivery system. By assessing the predictors of burnout and grief, this study describes the role of grief in HIV/AIDS volunteer burnout. Voluntary and anonymous questionnaires were sent to members of the Foundation for Interfaith Research and Ministry (FIRM), a multi-religious organization formed to provide volunteer work in HIV/AIDS care facilities around Houston, Texas. In 174 valid responses, grief was measured against work characteristics, burnout, rewards, stressors, and the general health questionnaire (GHQ). No significant relationship was found between grief and burnout; however, burnout in volunteers may be different from that in health care professionals for the following reasons: (1) volunteers choose to work in the HIV/AIDS area; (2) they have control over the time they spend volunteering; (3) volunteers are internally motivated to work in the HIV/AIDS area; and (4) if the volunteer does not enjoy the work they can terminate their involvement with minimal cost. The best univariate predictors of grief are time spent as a volunteer and volunteer hours per week, where those who spend the most hours volunteering experience less grief. The Reward/Stress measures most significantly associated with grief include empathy/self-knowing reward, emotional support reward, and emotional overload stress. The strongest predictors of grief in the regression analysis, which account for 21% of the variance, were time as a volunteer, emotional support, emotional overload, GHQ-somatic symptoms, and GHQ-social dysfunction. The data suggest that in order to reduce grief, special attention should be paid to allowing volunteers freely to express problems with emotional overload and workload adjustments, and providing clear emotional support as a reward.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-144
Number of pages8
JournalAIDS Care - Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996


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