A Saskatchewan Perspective of Psychologists’ Quality of Professional Life as a Determinant in Responsiveness when Working as Suicide Interventionist - A Mixed Methods Study

Schmidt, Renee Jody
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Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, University of Regina

Psychologists’ professional quality of life, defined by healthy supportive work environments and satisfaction derived from work, is one factor for determining positive client outcomes (Stamm, 2010; Figley, 2002). Self-care is essential to maintain psychologists’ fitness to practice and work quality (Smith & Burton-Moss, 2009; Skovholt, 2001; Radeke & Mahoney, 2000). Competence and fitness in practice, the demonstration of knowledge, skills, and capabilities to work responsively, safely and effectively, is a professional and ethical expectation pivotal in suicide intervention and ongoing suicide work (Neimeyer, Fortner, & Melby, 2001; Schmitz, Allen, Feldman, Gutin, Jahn, Kleespies, Quinnett, & Simpson, 2012). This concurrent mixed methods study considers Saskatchewan psychologists’ quality of professional life as a determinant in responsiveness when working as suicide interventionist. Quality of professional life and responsiveness to suicide-ideated clients was examined. In the quantitative research, 61 Saskatchewan psychologists participated in an Internet survey, responding to the ProQOL5, Professional Quality of Life Scale - 5th Edition (Stamm, 2010), and the SIRI-2, Suicide Intervention Response Inventory - Revised Edition (Neimeyer & Bonnelle, 1997). Increased responsiveness to suicide-ideated client statements was correlated with practical experience-based suicide-specific training (such as supervised internships with a focus on suicide work and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training-ASIST). Ratings of higher compassion satisfaction (from ProQOL5) were correlated with lower caseloads and increased self-care. Clinical psychology graduates demonstrated increased appropriate responsiveness to suicide-ideated statements over Educational psychology graduates. In the qualitative methods, developed from 61 open-ended survey responses and interviews with 5 psychologists, it was uncovered that quality of professional life and fitness to practice cannot be the sole responsibility of the psychologist. Employers are responsible for workload expectations that can become unrealistic for psychologists to sustain best practices in suicide work. Psychologists identified that responsiveness in suicide work improves when: they have more control over caseload content, diversity and volume; supervisors and teams are collaborative and therapeutically knowledgeable in suicide work; stigma related to psychologists accessing professional and personal help is removed; self-care is engaged at a personal level and in the professional setting; support focused on psychologists’ needs after client suicide are engaged; and employers recognize the intensity of suicide work. The study offers understanding of workplace and professional dynamics that influence competent, adequately responsive suicide work. The quantitative results have generalizability limitations, as the sample was limited to 61 Saskatchewan psychologists, which represents 11.5% of the total population of registered psychologists invited to participate through the Saskatchewan College of Psychologists. Themes derived from the open-ended responses of the 61 and the narrative essences derived from the 5 interviews will be helpful to psychologists and support discussion related to how regulatory bodies, training facilities, employers, supervisors, and organizations generate support for client suicide work.

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy In Education, University of Regina. xvii, 385 p.