The Burnout Syndrome in Nursing



Tutor’s Name

25th, January 2013

The concept of burnout in nursing is of essence in different organizations, and needs close monitoring by the management. This has grave implications on the nursing practice, as well as the health organization. Burnout is costly to healthcare organizations, therefore, must be addressed within the appropriate timeframe (Elder, Evans & Lizette, 2012). Burnout is a type of stress, which is considered unique from other stress types. An individual experiencing burnout might feel exhausted emotionally and might experience low personal accomplishment. In addition, such an individual will experience depersonalization (Cordes & Dourherty, 1993).

In all occupations, including nursing, individuals experience stress mainly because of the work they do. When individuals experience stress at work, they become tired and their productivity level at work drops significantly. Therefore, burnout generally results in absenteeism, high employee turnover, decreased productivity of employees, as well as increase in physical conditions in employees, including headaches, insomnia, among others (Cordes & Dougherty, 1993). If employees experience stress in their work, the management, together with the employees themselves should look for appropriate ways of getting rid of any work-related stress they are experiencing. If this is not addressed and is left to continue for a long time, it results in burnout, which is more lethal. Burnout extends its effects from the individual to their families and jobs. Different studies show that burnouts are prevalent in helping professions such as social work and healthcare professions, including nursing (Elder, Evans & Lizette, 2012). This paper will review considerable literature on the concept of burnout, and compare and contrast studies conducted on this concept in different years. This will culminate in a reflection on the concept of burning as presented in the studies, in order to provide a framework for enhanced understanding of burnout in nursing.

According to Poncet et al (2006), the concept of burnout has existed since the 1970’s. Different studies have been conducted on this concept over the years, to understand it well for increased chances of dealing with the situation in affected organizations. In 1999, Jansenn, Jonge, and Bakker, conducted a study among different nurses in order to establish the various determinants of work motivation, burnout, and turnover among nurses. Poncet et al conducted another study in the year 2006, and this sought to establish the degree of burnout in the nursing staff that was concerned with critical care. Finally, most recently in 2012, Spooner-Lane and Patton conducted a study in which they aimed at debunking the determinants of burnout among the nurses that worked in public hospitals.

In their definition of the concept of burnout, Spooner-Lane and Patton (2012) argued that burnout is not a symptom of work stress, but is what unmanaged work stress culminates into. They have used various definitions from different scholars to clarify more on the nature of burnout. Overall, from their definition, it remains that burnout is a result of extreme work-related stress. On the other hand, Poncet et al (2006) have begun by highlighting a short history about the concept of burnout. They argue have defined the burnout syndrome a condition that results when employees fail to put up with the emotional stress they experience at their work place. They have alternatively defined burnout syndrome as the state in which an employee feels they have failed, and are exhausted after they have used most of their energy in their job. Poncet et al (2006) have emphasized the detrimental effects of burnout syndrome on both the employee and the organization. Both Poncet et al (2006) and Spooner-Lane and Patton (2012) have identified the epidemiological issues of burnout syndrome. Spooner-Lane and Patton (2012) have identified emotional exhaustion, while Poncet et al (2006) have identified headaches, exhaustion, insomnia, eating problems, among others as the physical implications of burnout syndrome.

On the other hand, Jansenn, Jonge & Bakker (1999), have not defined the concept of burnout as in the other studies. This is partly because their study did not wholly address the concept of burnout, but included other aspects such as intrinsic work motivation and employee turnover. Nonetheless, their study was based in the field of nursing and addressed how these three concepts affect nursing professionals and organizations. Most importantly, Jansenn, Jonge & Bakker (1999) have identified various stressors in the nursing profession, including workload, lack of social support, and death instances, among others, which they argue that if not addressed on time, might lead to inefficiency of the nursing professionals in the organization. This is same as the case of the burnout syndrome, which is addressed by the other two studies. Nonetheless, all the three studies have identified burnout syndrome as widely occurring in the nursing profession. In their definition of the concept, all the three studies have related burnout syndrome with work-related stress, which is left unattended to, and results into a lethal condition, which is harmful to both the employee and the organization they are working for.

All the tree studies identified are quantitative studies, and each adopted a different theory for their framework. In their study, Jansenn, Jonge & Bakker (1999) sought to find out the factors that result in employee motivation, as well as those work factors that are detrimental or beneficial to the health of health professionals, including mental and psychological health. In order to address these research questions, Jansenn, Jonge & Bakker (1999) developed a framework, which would help them approach the study. For the relationship between the variables of work stress and its outcomes to be established, the authors had to breakdown work into various components including conditions of employment, work content, social, and labour relations, and work organization. In addition, four main theoretical concepts were selected, and these include employee motivation, employee turnover, work-related health, and well-being. With these, the authors were able to measure the outcomes using both behavioral and psychological measures in order to arrive at valid conclusions in the study.

On the other hand, Poncet et al (2006) in their study sought to establish the determinants of burnout syndrome in critical care nursing staff. This was their area of interest, since little was known in the area, as most researchers did not focus on critical care nursing staff. Therefore, their study, which was based in France, questionnaires were administered to different ICU’s, and only 2,392 nursing staff members filled them successfully and handed them back. After statistical analysis of data in the filled questionnaires, results of the study indicated that a large number of ICU nursing staff experienced the burnout syndrome. The factors identified, which resulted in the burnout syndrome include increased workload in the ICU department, as well as the number of deaths of patients nurses in the ICU witnessed.

In the study of Spooner-Lane and Patton (2012), the determinants of burnout in public hospital nurses were sought after. Mainly, the authors wanted to establish the effect of work support on burnout syndrome in public hospital nurses. This study was conducted in Australia in three public hospitals, with 273 nurses. Results showed that these nurses experienced average burnout syndrome. However, work overload was identified as a major factor that increased burnout, while supervisor support considerably reduced burnout.

All the three studies were conducted in the field of health care, specifically nursing. This could be because of the fact that burnout syndrome is prevalent in the health care discipline, as most studies have shown. Nonetheless, all the three studies have identified burnout syndrome to be associated with increased workload of the nursing staff, and less work support. Although these studies were conducted in different departments of health care, the results about the concept of burnout remain similar across all the studies. In addition, in defining the concept of burnout, all the three studies employed quite related definitions of the concept. Again, this might be because of the studies were conducted in a similar discipline.

Despite the fact that the three studies were conducted in different time frames, the information about the concept of burnout has remained the same. This is probably because of the fact that burnout is not a concept that is specific to nursing only, and which does not apply to other disciplines. Every occupation experiences burnout in its employees, but the rates are higher in the discipline of nursing. Therefore, this is why the facts about burnout are consistent, as shown from the 1999 study to the 2012 study. From these studies, it is suggested that most scholars have conducted many researches on the aspect of burnout in the field of nursing. It therefore, seems that the concept of burnout had aroused a lot of interest in the field of nursing. I therefore, suppose that the nursing profession has been influenced detrimentally by the concept of burnout in nurses, leading to different studies conducted to look into this issue, for solutions to be strategized.

In conclusion, the burnout syndrome remains an important aspect in nursing and other professions, considering the effects it has on employees and the organization in general. Therefore, as the studies have shown that this aspect is detrimental to the nursing profession, the results can be used to encourage the management to address any sign of work-related stress in its employees, before it culminates into the burnout syndrome, which is lethal. The management should ensure that the determinants of the burnout syndrome in their organizations are controlled. It is better to control them, than to wait and compensate for the consequences of burnout syndrome in the organization. Nonetheless, it is the work of both the nursing professionals and their management to collectively address the burnout syndrome in the organization, as this also negatively affects the patients, who innocently come seeking health care.


Cordes, C. & Dourherty, T. (1993). A Review and an Integration on Research on Job Burnout.

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Elder, R., Evans, K. & Lizette, D. (2012). Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. New York:

Cengage Learning.

Jansenn, P., Jonge, J. & Bakker, A. (1999). Specific Determinants of Intrinsic Work Motivation,

Burnout, and Turnover Intensions: A Study Among Nurses. Journal of Advanced

Nursing. 29(6): 1360-1369. Retrieved from

Poncet et al (2006). Burnout Syndrome in Critical Care Nursing Staff. American Journal of

Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 175(7): 698-704. Retrieved from

Spooner-Lane, R. & Patton, W. (2012). Determinants of Burnout among Public Hospital Nurses.

Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing. 25(1): 8-16. Retrieved from




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