Role strain experienced by male occupational therapists

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Abstract

Occupational therapy is a female-dominated profession with only 5.8% of all clinicians being men. Traditionally, occupational therapy education programmes have had limited success in recruiting men and those men who do become therapists tend to work in the profession for only short periods of time. The purpose of this study was to identify the factors that have an impact on male occupational therapists. Specifically, role strain due to community, colleagues and patients, three types of role stress (role ambiguity, role conflict and role overload) and the demographic characteristics of male occupational therapists in Canada were examined.

Role strain is a subjective state of emotional arousal (such as increased level of awareness, general emotional arousal, distress, anxiety or frustration) in response to the external conditions of social stress. Community role strain was considered to arise from the negative attitudes of people outside the immediate work environment. Colleague role strain was considered to arise from the attitudes and behaviours of co-workers and others employed in the work environment. Patient role strain was considered to arise from the acts and attitudes of patients and their families.

Role stress is a social structural condition in which role obligations are vague, irritating, difficult, conflicting or impossible to meet. Role ambiguity was defined as vagueness or a lack of clarity of role expectation. Role conflict was defined as role expectations that are incompatible. Role overload was defined as too much expected in the time available.

A questionnaire was posted to all male therapists who were members of the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (n = 199). Eighty-three per cent of the sample responded. The survey instruments consisted of a demographic questionnaire, the Egeland and Brown Rating Scale, the Rizzo, House and Lirtzman Scale and the Beehr, Walsh and Taber Scale. As a group, male occupational therapists reported a moderate level of community role strain, colleague role strain and patient role strain. Similarly, male occupational therapists also reported a moderate degree of role conflict and role overload, but had a low level of role ambiguity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-417
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Occupational Therapy
Volume61
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1998

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