Author ORCID Identifier

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Health Science

First Advisor

Moses Ikiugu


There is a high prevalence of burnout in the athletic training profession. Similar to what has been found in other healthcare professions, burnout is correlated with lack of job satisfaction, high turnover, and decreased productivity. In phase one of this study, the purpose was to investigate whether there was a relationship between perceived career meaning and burnout among certified athletic trainers. In phase two, the purpose of the study was to explore the lived experiences of meaningfulness and purposefulness by certified athletic trainers. The overall objective of the research was to generate an understanding of factors associated with burnout in order to propose meaningful changes in job design to prevent burnout and attrition by certified athletic trainers. Phase one study sample consisted of 471 participants. They participated in a survey conducted online through Qualtrics using the Maslach Burnout Inventory, Work and Meaning Inventory, and Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Index. In phase two, I interviewed 8 participants using an interview guide to facilitate discussion of participants’ lived experiences of career as a source of meaning and purpose. The findings revealed that: working in a single setting as opposed to multiple roles significantly predicted positive meaning in career for athletic trainers (ATs) (p=.04); Athletic Trainers experienced higher rates of emotional exhaustion (p<.001) and depersonalization (p<.001) than other healthcare professionals; meaningful predicted emotional exhaustion (p<.001), depersonalization (p<.001), and sense of personal accomplishment (p<.001); burnout predicted mental well-being (p<.001); emotional exhaustion predicted mental well-being (p<.001); depersonalization and sense of personal accomplishment predicted mental well-being (p<.001). These findings were corroborated by themes emerging from qualitative data, which indicated that contributors to meaning among ATs included service, ability to set boundaries to ensure self-care, and having reliable support systems and mentorship. Detractors of meaningful careers were misunderstandings of the profession, feeling underappreciated, and experiencing high stress levels. The ATs who were interviewed felt torn between a sense of purpose and dissatisfaction, leading to high rates of burnout. The study findings indicated that career meaningfulness could be a protective factor for burnout. These findings implied that efforts were needed to minimize detractors to career meaning and enhance contributors to meaning in the AT profession by redesigning clinical practice, broadening professional development opportunities, and enhancing education to equip ATs with the necessary skills to ward off burnout.

Subject Categories

Medicine and Health Sciences | Mental and Social Health | Other Psychology


burnout, certified athletic trainer, healthcare, meaning, mixed-methods, well-being

Number of Pages



University of South Dakota