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The effects of a dilemma management training program on mental health: a prospective study with mid-level executives in hospitals

Marieke Born (Institute of Medical Psychology, University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany and Institute of Medical Psychology, Ruprecht Karls University, Heidelberg, Germany)
Janna Küllenberg (Institute of Medical Psychology, University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany and Institute of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology, University of Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany)
Antonia Drews (Institute of Medical Psychology, University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany and Institute of Medical Psychology, Ruprecht Karls University, Heidelberg, Germany)
Ulrike Bossmann (Institute of Medical Psychology, University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany)
Julika Zwack (Institute of Medical Psychology, University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany and Helm Stierlin Institute, Heidelberg, Germany)
Harald Gündel (Clinic for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Ulm, Ulm, Germany)
Jochen Schweitzer (Institute of Medical Psychology, University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany and Helm Stierlin Institute, Heidelberg, Germany)

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 26 July 2022

Issue publication date: 19 October 2022

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Abstract

Purpose

Mid-level executives are confronted with many dilemma situations, in which they are forced to decide between conflicting options, none of them leading to the desired result. If they fail to cope with them constructively, their individual risk for mental strains increases (Gerlmaier and Latniak, 2013). Initial findings focusing on executives in industry (Bossmann, 2020) show that fostering effective dilemma management in executives is a preventive factor against stress-related diseases. Yet, there is little empirical research that evaluates the contribution of dilemma management training on leadership’s mental health prevention in hospitals. This study aims to examine whether such a training program, adapted to current working conditions in German hospitals, promotes mid-level executives’ mental health.

Design/methodology/approach

A 10-month training program was administered to N = 69 senior physicians, senior nurses and senior service and administrative staff in four hospitals. To evaluate training effects on perceived stress reactivity, on cognitive and emotional irritation over time as well as the effects of the training dose on these results, participants’ self-reported measures were collected at four points in time: before (t0), during (t1), immediately after (t2) and three months after the intervention (t3).

Findings

Overall, participants showed less cognitive irritation and perceived stress reactivity over time. However, their emotional irritation did not change significantly. The dose of training participation did not moderate these results.

Originality/value

This paper contributes to the prevention of stress-related diseases and the promotion of sensemaking in mid-level executives’ dilemma management routine in the face of increasingly aggravating working conditions due to financial restrictions in the German health-care system. Findings of this study are explained in greater depth using previously reported qualitative data from the same research project.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the funding of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under the funding code 01GL1752A. The BMBF has not any role in the design of the study, data collection, analysis of data, interpretation of data and dissemination of findings.

SEEGEN is a joint project, the success of which was made possible by good interdisciplinary cooperation. The authors would like to thank the members of the SEEGEN consortium as well as all participating hospital employees and especially the management and staff who supported us on-site.

All authors of this paper have inputted to the manuscript draft and have read and approved the final version. Additionally, the following contributors provided input to the data collection and management: Lara Bäck, Anke Baetzner, Kristin Brennhäußer, Najda Gebhardt, Benjamin Minkus, Vanessa Eisele, Steven Gaa, Alex Syndikus and Verena Simon.

Citation

Born, M., Küllenberg, J., Drews, A., Bossmann, U., Zwack, J., Gündel, H. and Schweitzer, J. (2022), "The effects of a dilemma management training program on mental health: a prospective study with mid-level executives in hospitals", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 35 No. 4, pp. 537-558. https://doi.org/10.1108/LHS-03-2022-0024

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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