Burnout, compassion fatigue and psychological capital: Findings from a survey of nurses delivering palliative care

Read Rosemary’s study in full here.

A large body of evidence indicates that the delivery of health care inclusive of palliative care is stressful (McVicar, 2003; Hackett, Palmer & Farrants, 2009). Chronic professional stress contributes to gradual emotional, physical and cognitive energy depletion resulting in workplace burnout (Holland & Neimeyer, 2005). Given the negative effects that burnout can have on the quality of care, it is worth examining the roles education, support and coping strategies play in reducing burnout for nurses delivering palliative care.

A recent study by Rosemary Frey and colleagues explored these issues. Two hundred and fifty-six Registered Nurses across New Zealand were invited to complete a web-based survey to examine needs regarding professional and personal support, as well as perceptions of barriers to and facilitators of good palliative care provision. Nurses were recruited through nursing organisations and a large tertiary level hospital. Results of the study highlight both areas of concern and hope. Over a quarter of the nurses recorded high burnout scores (26.8%) and over half had (51.6%) reported moderate secondary traumatic stress mean scores.

However, the results also suggest that individual factors such as psychological hardiness and work-related psychological empowerment may play an important role in decreasing the nurses’ vulnerability to burnout. Study results also indicate that palliative care education may play a role in reducing secondary traumatic stress. The take home message from the study is that both the personal and work-related psychological resources nurses draw upon to deal with the challenges of caring for patients at the end of life can be supported by interventions to increase the uptake of palliative care education.

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