The experience of health and suffering in the medical profession

Salvatore Settineri, Emanuele Maria Merlo, Fabio Frisone, Daniela Marchetti, Maria Cristina Verrocchio, Maria Giovanna Pellegrino, Carmela Mento, Concettina Fenga


Objective: To evaluate the existential distress through simple measurements of the emotional state, health and well-being of doctors involved in outpatient and ward activities.

Method: an observation group of 77 physicians with male prevalence (58.4%), between the ages of 26 to 67 years old (mean 46.30 years; SD = 11.1). The mean of the length of service is 18.71 years (SD = 10.50); data collection took place through an initial questionnaire, an instrument referring to the emotional and affective state (POMS, McNair et al, 1992), the motivation at work scale MAWS (Gagnè, 2010, the Italian version Galletta et al, 2011), scales related to well-being (GHQ-12, 2000) and health (WHO, 1998)

Results: half of the participants in the study work during the night shift (50.6%), another percentage suffer from medical pathologies (41.6%) and follow drug therapies regularly (33.8%); significant positive correlations emerged among some MAWS scales (autonomous motivation, ego ideal - item 7,8, motivation for medical work - item 3,4) and psychological well-being; significant positive correlation between the POMS force scale and psychological well-being, among some POMS scales (Tension or Anxiety, Depression or Dejection, Fatigue or Inertia, Confusion or Bewilderment, Anger or Hostility, Vigor or Activity, Total score) and psychological distress and suffering; significant negative correlations among the POMS scales (Tension or Anxiety, Depression or Dejection, Anger or Hostility, Fatigue or Inertia, Confusion or Bewilderment, Total score) and psychological well-being, among the POMS , Vigor or Activity, psychological distress and suffering.

Conclusions: in the field of work and the medical profession, the experience of this study refers to the importance of conscious and deep autonomy, as a possibility to adhere to the humanistic experience of the profession; the states of slight maladjustment can turn out to be particularly counterproductive, such as maladaptive psychopathological phenomena.


Health; Suffering at work; Emotions; Psychological well-being

Full Text:



1. Bültmann, U., Kant, I., Kasl, S. V., Beurskens, A. J., & van den Brandt, P. A. (2002). Fatigue and psychological distress in the working population. Journal of psychosomatic research, 52(6), 445-452.

2. Church, A. T., Katigbak, M. S., Ibáñez-Reyes, J., de Jesús Vargas-Flores, J., Curtis, G. J., Tanaka-Matsumi, J., ... & Locke, K. D. (2014). Relating self-concept consistency to hedonic and eudaimonic well-being in eight cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 45(5), 695-712.

3. Collins, S., & Long, A. (2003). Working with the psychological effects of trauma: consequences for mental health‐care workers–a literature review. Journal of psychiatric and mental health nursing, 10(4), 417-424.

4. Curran, P. J., West, S. G., and Finch, J. F. (1996). The robustness of test statistics to nonnormality and specification error in confirmatory factor analysis. Psychol. Methods 1, 16-29. doi:10.1037/1082-989X.1.1.16

5. Dolea, C., & Adams, O. (2005). Motivation of health care workers-review of theories and em p irical evid ence.

6. Elwood, L. S., Mott, J., Lohr, J. M., &Galovski, T. E. (2011). Secondary trauma symptoms in clinicians: A critical review of the construct, specificity, and implications for trauma-focused treatment. Clinical psychology review, 31(1), 25-36.

7. Figley, C. R. (2002). Compassion fatigue: Psychotherapists' chronic lack of self care. Journal of clinicalpsychology, 58(11), 1433-1441.

8. Figley, C.R. (1995). Compassion fatigue: toward a new understanding of the costs of caring. Stamm, B.H. (Ed.), Secondary traumatic stress: selfcare issues for clinicians, researchers, and educators,.Lutherville, MD: Sidran Press.

9. Figlio, K. (2018). The dread of sameness: social hatred and Freud’s “narcissism of minor differences”. In Psychoanalysis and Politics (pp. 29-46). Routledge.

10. Freud, S. (1962). Introduzione al narcisismo. Rivista di Psicoanalisi, 8(3), 155-175.

11. Freud, S. (2010). L'interpretazione delle afasie: uno studio critico. Quodlibet.

12. Freud, S. (2012). Psicologia delle masse e analisi dell'Io. Newton Compton Editori.

13. Gagné, M., Forest, J., Gilbert, M. H., Aubé, C., Morin, E., & Malorni, A. (2010). The Motivation at Work Scale: Validation evidence in two languages. Educational and psychological measurement, 70(4), 628-646.

14. Gagné, M., Forest, J., Vansteenkiste, M., Crevier-Braud, L., Van den Broeck, A., Aspeli, A. K., ... & Halvari, H. (2015). The Multidimensional Work Motivation Scale: Validation evidence in seven languages and nine countries. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 24(2), 178-196.

15. Galletta, M., Battistelli, A., & Portoghese, I. (2011). Validazione della scala di motivazione al lavoro (MAWS) nel contesto italiano: evidenza di un modello a tre fattori. Risorsa uomo.

16. Galletta, M., Portoghese, I., & Battistelli, A. (2011). Intrinsic motivation, job autonomy and turnover intention in the Italian healthcare: The mediating role of affective commitment. Journal of Management research, 3(2), 1.

17. Gleichgerrcht, E., & Decety, J. (2014). The relationship between different facets of empathy, pain perception and compassion fatigue among physicians. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience, 8, 243.

18. Goldberg, D. P. (1972). The detection of psychiatric illness by questionnaire: A technique for the identification and assessment of non-psychotic illness. Oxford University Press.

19. Goldberg, D. P., & Hillier, V. F. (1979). A scaled version of the General Health Questionnaire. Psychological medicine, 9(1), 139-145.

20. Goldberg, D. P., Gater, R., Sartorius, N., Ustun, T. B., Piccinelli, M., Gureje, O., & Rutter, C. (1997). The validity of two versions of the GHQ in the WHO study of mental illness in general health care. Psychological medicine, 27(1), 191-197.

21. Goldberg, D., & Williams, P. (2000). General health questionnaire (GHQ). Swindon, Wiltshire, UK: nferNelson.

22. Goldberg, D., & Williams, P. (2006). A user's guide to the General Health Questionnaire. GL assessment.

23. Harrington, J. M. (2001). Health effects of shift work and extended hours of work. Occupational and Environmental medicine, 58(1), 68-72.

24. Howard, J. L., Gagné, M., & Bureau, J. S. (2017). Testing a continuum structure of self-determined motivation: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 143(12), 1346-1377.

25. Huggard, P., & Unit, G. (2013). A systematic review of the measurement of compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and secondary traumatic stress in physicians. Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies, 2013, 1.

26. Kline, R. B. (2010). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

27. LeBlanc, V. R., McConnell, M. M., & Monteiro, S. D. (2015). Predictable chaos: a review of the effects of emotions on attention, memory and decision making. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 20(1), 265-282.

28. Manocha, R., Black, D., Sarris, J., & Stough, C. (2011). A randomized, controlled trial of meditation for work stress, anxiety and depressed mood in full-time workers. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2011.

29. Martins Pereira, S., Fonseca, A. M., & Sofia Carvalho, A. (2011). Burnout in palliative care: A systematic review. Nursing Ethics, 18(3), 317-326.

30. Maslach, C. (1982). The cost of caring. New Jersey. Practice Hall Inc.

31. McNair, D. M., Droppleman, L. F., & Lorr, M. (1992). Edits manual for the profile of mood states: POMS. Edits.

32. McNair, D. M., Droppleman, L. F., & Lorr, M. (1992). Edits manual for the profile of mood states: POMS. Edits.

33. Medland, J., Howard-Ruben, J., & Whitaker, E. (2004). Fostering psychosocial wellness in oncology nurses: Addressing burnout and social support in the workplace. Oncology Nursing Forum, 31, 47–54.

34. Michie, S., & Williams, S. (2003). Reducing work related psychological ill health and sickness absence: a systematic literature review. Occupational and environmental medicine, 60(1), 3-9.

35. Nakao, M. (2010). Work-related stress and psychosomatic medicine. BioPsychoSocial medicine, 4(1), 4.

36. Ray, S. L., Wong, C., White, D., & Heaslip, K. (2013). Compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, work life conditions, and burnout among frontline mental health care professionals. Traumatology, 19(4), 255-267.

37. Rossi, A., Cetrano, G., Pertile, R., Rabbi, L., Donisi, V., Grigoletti, L., ...&Amaddeo, F. (2012). Burnout, compassion fatigue, and compassion satisfaction among staff in community-based mental health services. Psychiatry Research, 200(2), 933-938.

38. Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Positive psychology: An introduction. In Flow and the foundations of positive psychology (pp. 279-298). Springer Netherlands.

39. Tabachnick, B.G., and Fidell, L. S. (2013). Using multivariate statistics (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.



  • There are currently no refbacks.