NIOSH logo and tagline

Module 4 – Situational (Physical and Environmental) Demands Contributing to Public Health Worker Burnout

Overview and Learning Objectives

In this module we explore physical and environmental demands that contribute to public health worker burnout. After reviewing this module, you should be able to:

  1. Identify and describe common physical factors that public health workers can experience as demands.
  2. Identify and describe common environmental factors that public health workers can experience as demands.
  3. Explain how physical and environmental demands can contribute to burnout.
Questions for Reflection and/or Discussion with your Team
  1. In your team or unit, what are the (a) most commonly present and (b) most impactful physical and environmental demands present in the situations in which you typically work?
  2. Are there any of these common and impactful situational demands that must be present (i.e., are intrinsic) to your typical work situation?
  3. Of these common and impactful situational demands, which do you have no, some, or nearly total control over?
Recommended Readings and Resources
  • Read the U.S. Surgeon General’s Health Advisory for Health Worker Burnout
    1. The entire document is worth reviewing, but see especially pages 11-15, 18-20, 30, 34, and 37-38.
    2. Although not limited to public health workers, much of what is highlighted and discussed in this report and the accompanying resources are relevant.
  • To improve your awareness of physical and environmental demands in indoor workplaces, explore the 9 foundations of a healthy buildings from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
  • If you are interested in getting a broader perspective on the types of physical and environmental demands affecting public health workers, check out the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). This database from the U.S. Department of Labor has thousands of occupational profiles that can be eye-opening and informative. They can help you quickly get up to speed about the various types of situational demands faced by different types of public health workers. Some example occupational profiles to start with, include:
    1. Health Education Specialists
    2. Occupational Health and Safety Specialists,
    3. Epidemiologists
    4. Healthcare Social Workers