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‘Patient-related burnout’ affects nurses’ job performance, study finds

Italian researchers also say long shift patterns cause burnout and affect well-being

Working long shift patterns, and emotional involvement in a patient's problems, can cause burnout and affect job performance among nurses, a new study claims.


Burnout can affect nurses’ work and well-being. Picture: iStock

Researchers at the University of L'Aquila in Italy examined the experiences of 315 nurses working at seven Italian hospitals in 2014-2015.

They identified three types of burnout: personal burnout, associated with personal problems such as sleep disorders; work-related burnout, associated with a poor working environment; and patient-related burnout, associated with becoming emotionally involved in a patient's problems.

The nurses, who completed questionnaires, worked in four areas: medical, psychiatric, critical care and on surgical wards, and worked at least six night shifts a month. Of these nurses:

  • 60% of participants worked a long shift cycle of two morning shifts, two afternoon shifts and two night shifts, followed by a three-day rest period.
  • 40% worked a short shift cycle of one morning shift, one afternoon shift and one night shift, followed by a two-day rest period.

Effect of long shift patterns

The researchers found that burnout was more likely in nurses who worked a long shift pattern compared with a short shift pattern, and job performance was affected in nurses who experienced patient-related burnout.

Half (50%) of nurses working in a psychiatric setting said they experienced burnout, compared with 37% of those working in a surgical setting, 30% in critical care and 24% in medical wards.

Female nurses had a higher rate of impaired sleep quality compared with male nurses.

Promoting well-being of nurses

Writing in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, the study authors called for employers to promote nurses’ health, well-being and safety.

‘The results of this study can help monitor burnout and sleep disorders among nurses who work rotating 24-hour shifts, from the perspective of improving the quality of life of the nurses and the safety of patients.’


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