The occupational well-being of teachers in the social and health education — towards the new academic year

As we write this, July has turned into August and in the minds of most people, summer holiday is already turning to work chores for the coming academic year. We can be grateful for many things in the past academic year; for example, despite the corona, our students in social and health care education have been given the opportunity to study remotely when necessary, and teaching and research staff have been allowed to do their work. However, the changes in the last couple of years are quite a few, posing different challenges. In teaching driven by the corona pandemic, the main challenges facing staff have been constantly changing practices, taking over new technologies and digital devices, causing a change in the nature of teaching and the need for additional training.

This has also left permanent changes in the teaching of the coming academic year. The work of students rather than staff is, or at least expected to be, increasingly network-centric working, forming new, diverse links between working life, universities and vocational education institutions, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary digitalisation. The student and teacher role has changed more as remote worker, adding flexibility to scheduling, but on the other hand, increasing loneliness. However, a large national survey of social and health care teachers from autumn 2020, during the corona pandemic, shows that the possibility of remote work increases the experience of occupational well-being. 

So the need for occupational well-being research has also been raised in the education sector (e.g. Hascher & Waber, 2021), but what kind of research do we need? As a whole, research on the well-being of students and staff in the field of social and health education has been rather limited, and previous studies have often been descriptive survey studies of the situation. In addition to survey studies, we need intervention studies, an example of which is the cooperation of the University of Eastern Finland with the University of Tartu and the two Health Care Colleges in Estonia to develop occupational well-being of health care teachers 2021-2023. The purpose of this research project is to provide information and operational models on the implementation of well-being interventions in social and health care education. We visited our partners and collaborators from Estonian in June.

Picture 1. Project team from the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Tartu.

Occupational well-being or well-being is also not a permanent state, but lives under the influence of the mutual balance between load and resource factors. In order to maintain and promote occupational well-being and health, resource and load factors should be in balance from the perspective of both the individual worker and the work community. In this case, it is possible for the employee to become empowered and achieve occupational well-being and health. (Saaranen et al., 2020, 2021.) Well-being and ill-being are not extremes of a continuum such that one cancels the other, in human life both of these can occur simultaneously.

In order to keep better balance between resources and load factors, individual recovery from the workload is also required during breaks, weekday evenings, weekends and holidays. Holidays are the longest periods of these and therefore offer a good opportunity for a comprehensive recovery. The recent results of Lätti’s master thesis (2022) from the Department of Nursing Science at the University of Eastern Finland showed that the methods of teacher recovery are different. During the working day, the means of recovery from the work of teachers in social and health care education were physical recovery means, support from colleagues and work pauses. The organisation can support the recovery of teachers in health and social care by balancing work load and planning work, as several studies have shown uneven distribution of teacher work (e.g. Saaranen et al., 2020), which is manifested in peak congestion. In addition, teachers hoped for more tangible support for recovery and various benefits offered by the organization to support recovery.

Picture 2. Visit to the Tartu Health Care College.
Picture 3. Visit to the Tallinn Health Care College.

Now, with the start of the autumn semester, it is important to take care of recovery in the middle of the work. In addition to work, at our leisure time we can also charge batteries with loved ones and friends. Hopefully, the summer holiday has allowed time for individual recovery and experience of empowerment.  The main thing is that everyone finds for themselves more suitable means for well-being and recovery. We wish everyone a good autumn semester and well-being for staff and students.

Terhi Saaranen, Professor, Vice Head of Department, PhD, MA (Education)

Anneli Vauhkonen, Project researcher, Doctoral researcher, MHSc

University of Eastern Finland, Department of Nursing Science


Hascher, T. & Waber, J. (2021). Teacher well-being: A systematic review of the research literature from the year 2000–2019. Educational Research Review, 34, 100411.

Saaranen, T., Kankkunen, P., & Juntunen, A. (2020). Terveysalan opettajien työhyvinvointi ja sen edistäminen – työntekijän ja hänen työnsä näkökulma. (The status and promotion of the occupational well-being of health care teachers – the perspective of workers and their work.) Hoitotiede (Journal of Nursing Science), 32(3), 154–165. (Abstract in English)

Saaranen, T., Kankkunen, P., & Mönkkönen, A. (2021). Työyhteisötekijöillä työhyvinvointia – kyselytutkimus terveysalan opettajille. (Occupational wellbeing through community factors – questionnaire survey to health educators.) Tutkiva Hoitotyö, 19(3), 32–39. (Abstract in English)


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