A Concept Analysis of Burnout within the Nursing Profession
The duty of taking care of other people and being responsible for their lives is a heavy burden for anyone to carry; and it can take its toll even among the best of us. In the nursing profession, burnout is a constant threat and is widely implicated for the alarming shortage of nurses that we are experiencing today.
According to the Nursing Shortage Fact Sheet (2007) compiled by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), Job burnout and dissatisfaction are driving nurses to leave the profession. Consider these figures compiled by AACN: more than 40% of nurses working in hospitals reported being dissatisfied with their jobs. The study indicates that 1 out of every 3 hospital nurses under the age of 30 are planning to leave their current job in the next year.
Indeed there is no denying the importance of nurses in the health care system as more and more people are availing of health services and are reaping the benefits of the advances in medical technology. As such, burnout deserves careful study in the hopes that it can be prevented or managed.
According to the concept analysis method developed by Walker and Avant (1995), the definition of a concept requires taking into consideration as many contexts as possible.
Only then will it be possible to have an intimate understanding of the concept and thoroughly define all its attributes. As such, a comprehensive literature review was conducted using all possible sources of information such as books, journals, and the Internet using related terms such as burnout, stress, career exhaustion, coping mechanism, job support, and lateral violence. In all the reviews made, the term burnout is consistently associated with loss of interest and motivation for work.
The burnout is often accompanied by a sense of disillusionment and questioning one’s sense of purpose and direction. On a more general sense, the term refers to the loss of interest for any endeavor and a sense of hopelessness for life.
As a springboard for this concept analysis, an internet search was done on the term burnout. Dictionary.com defines burnout as a state of being overworked due to intense activity or prolonged stress.
This leads to fatigue, frustration or lack of interest. Wikipedia, a popular online source of information defines burnout as “a psychological term for the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest usually in the work context. It is also used as an English slang term to mean exhaustion”.
It goes on to say that some workers are more predisposed to burnout, depending on their personality traits (“Wikipedia article about burnout” 2007).
Another website, Helpguide.org, a trusted non-profit online resource for various health issues, describes burnout as a condition that “reduces your productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly hopeless, powerless, cynical, and resentful. The unhappiness burnout causes can eventually threaten your job, your relationships, and your health”.
The site also made an attempt to make a simple and understandable distinction between stress and burnout. According to the site, stress involves an overwhelming amount of responsibilities that demand too much of you physically and psychologically. However, stress can be controlled with proper time management and often goes away once the task has been accomplished.
Burnout, on the other hand means feeling empty and devoid of motivation. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations unless they leave and lead a different life. (“Helpguide.org article on burnout” 2007) Prolonged exposure to stressors in the workplace can eventually lead to burnout.
Maslach (2003) attributes this “loss of idealism and passion for one’s job” as something that “results from an incongruence or misfit between the worker and the job.” Maslach further elaborates by stating that the problematic relationship between the person and the work environment is a consistent theme in all studies made about burnout.
This misfit refers to the mismatch between the demands of the job and the capacity of the person to rise up to these demands on a consistent and continuous basis, or if the rewards of the job is not commensurate to the demands being asked of the individual. Balevre made a study that relates maladaptive behavior to the burnout phenomenon.
The paper showed that maladaptive thoughts can be changed with proper help, and this changes the nurses’ negative reactions to a given stimulus, thereby decreasing the resulting burnout phenomenon (2001).