Nurse Burnout: Causes and Consequences

Topic: Nursing
Words: 1405 Pages: 5


In the present day, nurse burnout may be regarded as one of the most serious threats that affect patient outcomes, the quality of health care delivery, and medical facilities’ general performance. Burnout is a particular occupational phenomenon characterized by nurses’ emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment (Kelly et al., 2021). It traditionally leads to multiple negative outcomes for a nurse’s health and work. At the same time, any efficient response requires an in-depth understanding of an issue, its causes, and effects. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to review literature related to nurse burnout to identify its main factors and connection with other negative events that may occur in clinical settings.

Methods of Searching

A literature review was conducted using electronic sources dedicated to nurse burnout. At the initial stage, Google Scholar with “nurse burnout” as keywords and a time period of the last five years was used to detect peer-reviewed articles related to the identified topic. Subsequently, sources were analyzed on the basis of their content, reliability, and expediency. Thus, all articles were published in peer-reviewed journals that support the validity of the information. In addition, the majority of studies represent the cross-sectional analyses of surveys with large numbers of participants that indicate their objectivity.

Review of the Literature

The systematic review prepared by Jun et al. (2021) aims to complement existing knowledge dedicated to nurse burnout, critically and systematically appraise the related literature, and examine the impact of burnout on patients and hospitals. In general, the authors identify nurse burnout as emotional exhaustion caused by chronic occupational stress that leads to an individual’s adverse health outcomes, including depression, gastrointestinal distress, chronic pain, and even mortality. In the process of studies’ evaluation, it was discovered that nurse burnout is hazardous not only at an individual level. In turn, it is directly connected with poor quality of care, worsening safety, patient dissatisfaction, and nurses’ decreased productivity and organizational commitment (Jun et al., 2021). In particular, burnout impacts the efficacy of team communication contributing to patients’ negative outcomes and low adherence rates of medical practices. As a result, nurse burnout leads to inattention to the needs of patients and colleagues, medical errors, and cost-inefficient nurse turnover. In turn, the researchers emphasize the significance of a complex approach to the issue of burnout at both individual (mindfulness practice, cognitive therapy) and organizational (management skills training, changes in regulations) levels.

The secondary analysis prepared by Shah et al. (2021) addresses the prevalence rate of nurse burnout in the United States and the factors that contribute to its occurrence. On the basis of cross-sectional survey data of the country’s National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, the authors aim to measure the scope of burnout’s influence on nurses’ leaving employment. According to 50,273 respondents that represented almost 4 million nurses nationally, burnout was a common reason for quitting a job, and more than 31% of those who had left employment reported burnout as the main reason for this decision (Shah et al., 2021). At the same time, the majority of nurses identified the peculiarities of working conditions as the main factors that lead to burnout and subsequent quitting. Thus, working for more than 40 hours per week, inadequate staffing, and a stressful work environment were among the main reasons for burnout reported by respondents. In this case, the implementation of new strategies for the improvement of working conditions is regarded as the most efficient solution for the minimization of burnout rates among nurses.

In their article, Kelly et al. (2021) evaluate the relationship between nurse burnout, resilience, and organizational turnover in clinical settings. The authors emphasize the significance of burnout-related threat to patient safety and the organization’s performance due to nurses’ reduced personal accomplishment, emotional exhaustion, and cynicism. Nurses who face burnout experience difficulties with communication and behavior, have a lack of motivation and satisfaction and poor job-related and personal self-esteem, and feel that they cannot perform their duties at an appropriate level (Kelly et al., 2021). According to the study’s results, 54% and 28% of sampled nurses experience burnout and its high levels, respectively, with increasing scores of emotional exhaustion and cynicism (Kelly et al., 2021). In turn, resilience is presupposed by a nurse’s age, tenure, intention to stay, and increased hours working. Nevertheless, burnout partially caused by a lack of resilience heavily contributes to organizational turnover. The improvement of the work environment and monitoring of employees for the measurement of their burnout levels for efficient response and the prevention of turnover are suggested as appropriate solutions.

Due to limited evidence related to the connection between nurse burnout and patient outcomes, Schlak et al. (2021) aim to investigate how this occupational phenomenon impacts patients’ length of stay, failure to rescue, and mortality in clinical settings. In general, burnout associated with poor working conditions may be regarded as a major factor that contributes to the occurrence of medical errors. In other words, health care providers whose productivity is affected by exhaustion “miss essential parts of patient care like medication delivery, communication, and surveillance” (Schlak et al., 2021, p. 2). The analysis of cross-sectional data supports this notion as it discovers the highest rates of patient mortality, prolonged length of their stay, and failure to rescue in hospitals with relatively high nurse burnout scores. In turn, appropriate working conditions in hospitals have a positive impact on the minimization of burnout and lead to better patient outcomes improving the quality of health care delivery through nurses’ commitment to work, increased self-esteem, and attention to patients’ needs.

The interrelation between nurse burnout and negative events that occur in medical facilities was investigated by a considerable number of researchers, including White et al. (2019). In particular, they address the relationship between burnout, missed care, and job dissatisfaction in nursing homes. According to the data collected from 687 direct care registered nurses within the framework of the 2015 RN4CAST-US nurse survey that covered 540 Medicaid and Medicare-certified nursing homes in several states across the country, 30% and 31% of nurses reported burnout and dissatisfaction with their job, respectively (White et al., 2019). At the same time, although more than 70% of health care providers admitted that they had missed at least one care task during their last shift, those who exhibited burnout left their duties related to care planning and patient comforting, surveillance, and teaching undone more frequently. In turn, adequate staffing, supportive management, opportunities for personal and professional development, and productive colleague relationships increase job satisfaction, decrease the risk of burnout, and lead to nurses’ quality performance.


The literature has shown that nurse burnout is a serious occupational threat that presupposes a considerable number of negative consequences. Thus, studies indicate the impact of burnout on poor patient outcomes and the occurrence of medical errors (Jun et al., 2021). Emotionally exhausted nurses with low-self esteem and job dissatisfaction are inattentive to patients’ needs and leave essential tasks undone. As a result, burnout is connected with a low quality of health care delivery, prolonged periods of patients’ stay in medical facilities, and even their mortality. In addition, burnout is among the major reasons for organizational turnover.

At the same time, inappropriate work conditions remain the main factor that contributes to the development of nurse burnout. These conditions include inadequate staffing, lack of management support, a stressful environment, unproductive colleague relationships, and workloads (Shah et al., 2021; White et al., 2019). In this case, changes should be taken at the organizational level to reduce burnout. Although cognitive therapy may positively impact nurses’ well-being, the majority of researchers state that the changes in facilities’ regulations are necessary for the prevention of this occupational phenomenon. These changes presuppose the monitoring of employees’ burnout levels, opportunities for their personal and professional development, the adequate scheduling and distribution of tasks, and management skills training.


This literature review aimed to identify the main factors and consequences of nurse burnout for its efficient minimization. Thus, according to studies under analysis, burnout is a serious occupational threat connected with multiple negative events, such as medical errors, poor patient outcomes, and organizational turnover. Associated with exhaustion, low self-esteem, job dissatisfaction, and a lack of motivation, burnout makes nurses inattentive to patients’ needs and conditions (Schlak et al., 2021). In turn, nurses’ working conditions predominantly contribute to the occurrence of burnout. Thus, their improvement will lead to a higher quality of health care delivery, nurses’ retention, and medical facilities’ satisfying performance.


Jun, J., Ojemeni, M. M., Kalamani, R., Tong, J., & Crecelius, M. L. (2021). Relationship between nurse burnout, patient and organizational outcomes: Systematic review. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 119(103933), 1-11.

Kelly, L. A., Gee, P. M., & Butler, R. J. (2021). Impact of nurse burnout on organizational and position turnover. Nursing Outlook, 69(1), 96-102. Web.

Schlak, A. E., Aiken, L. H., Chittams, J., Poghosyan, L., & McHugh, M. (2021). Leveraging the work environment to minimize the negative impact of nurse burnout on patient outcomes. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(2), 610. Web.

Shah, M. K., Gandrakota, N., Cimiotti, J. P., Ghose, N., Moore, M., & Ali, M. K. (2021). Prevalence of and factors associated with nurse burnout in the US. JAMA Network Open, 4(2), 1-11. Web.

White, E. M., Aiken, L. H., & McHugh, M. D. (2019). Registered nurse burnout, job dissatisfaction, and missed care in nursing homes. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 67(10), 2065-2071. Web.

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