Explaining Burnout as a Nursing Concept

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 3
Words: 843
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: College

The concept of burnout refers to emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of energy and motivation to work efficiently. The most common reason for burnout among nurses is a high workload that is caused by the shortage of medical personnel. The issue of burnout has become immensely topical during the COVID-19 pandemic. Koontalay et al. (2021) argue that 60 percent of American healthcare providers have suffered from burnout caused by increased workload and high stress levels. According to the study of de Looff et al. (2018), another factor that significantly contributes to nurses’ burnout is the aggressive behavior of patients. The study of Montgomery et al. (2021) reveals that nurse burnout leads to an increase in medication administration errors. Therefore, nurses’ burnout leads to the deterioration of the quality of care provided to the patients.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent nurses and other healthcare specialists from burning out and losing interest in their job. Diehl et al. (2021) note that nurses with high commitment to their work are less likely to suffer from the high workload and, hence, experience burnout. That is because their commitment grants them the feeling of stability, security, and personal significance (Diehl et al., 2021). Nonetheless, it is still important to teach nurses to cope with stress and develop such a schedule with a normal workload.

Three Defining Attributes

Attributes assist in defining the critical characteristics of the concept and conducting its detailed examination. The three defining attributes of burnout are the loss of motivation, lack of a sense of accomplishment, and cynicism. The absence of inspiration to the care of patients is common among nurses who are prone to experience burnout (Mokodongan et al., 2021). Loss of motivation does not mean that a nurse will harm patients. However, the quality of performance is highly likely to decrease. Nurses who experience burnout report that they do not have a sense of personal accomplishment (Bakhamis et al., 2019). From this, it follows that these two notions are related. As for cynicism, Munir et al. (2018) state that it might result not only from burnout but also from the absence of a caring climate in a hospital. To some extent, cynicism is inherent to all medical staff members since they have to witness pain, suffering, and death almost every day. Nonetheless, nurses should have compassion for their patients to guarantee them the best care possible.

Antecedent and Consequence of the Concept

Burnout results from the excessive workload, stress, and aggression of patients. Hence, the antecedent of burnout is job stressors (Chen & Chen, 2018). As it has already been mentioned above, the consequences of nurses burnout are an increased number of medication administration errors and an overall decrease in the quality of the provided care (Montgomery et al., 2021).

Model Case

By the end of the 12-hours shift, the nurse practitioner feels tired and thinks that she has lost a lot of time working as a nurse and still has not got promoted. She admits that she has no energy to listen to patients’ worries because no one is interested in whether she feels alright after working for 12 hours one week in a row. Simultaneously, she does patient rounds and accidentally gives one of the patients a pill of triazolam instead of ibuprofen to reduce fever. Fortunately, this mistake was noticed by another nurse who was wondering why the fever of this patient was not reducing. The nurse who confused the drugs cynically responds that her mistake is not severe because fever might reduce while the patient is sleeping.

The example above demonstrates that burnout decreases the quality of care and causes medication errors. In this case, the nurse has no desire to care for the patients; she feels that she has achieved nothing and acts cynically. The reason for such behavior is not the lack of professionalism but the burnout caused by the excessive workload and lack of rest.

Theoretical Applications of the Concept

The concept of burnout is demonstrated in the Motivation to Care for Professional Nursing Work Model developed by Moody and Pesut (2006). According to Moody and Pesut’s (2006) theory, to stay motivated, nurses should realize the meaningfulness of their work and have a goal that they are striving to achieve. At this point, it should be noted that burnouts and loss of motivation are related (Mokodongan et al., 2021). Hence, the managerial personnel must devote attention to nurses motivation and, consequently, minimize the probability of their burnout.


The concept of burnout is highly applicable to the advanced nursing practice. That is because nurses commonly are overloaded with duties during the shifts and even have to work extra hours due to the lack of medical personnel. Even though nurses are familiar with the stress-relieving strategies, it is hard to stay positive and highly motivated when every day they have to communicate to aggressive and uncooperative patients or work all day long with almost no rest. The administrative personnel should take the issue of burnout seriously because it negatively affects not only nurses but also patients.


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Chen, S. C., & Chen, C. F. (2018). Antecedents and consequences of nurses’ burnout: Leadership effectiveness and emotional intelligence as moderators. Management Decision, 56(4), 777-792. Web.

de Looff, P., Nijman, H., Didden, R., & Embregts, P. (2018). Burnout symptoms in forensic psychiatric nurses and their associations with personality, emotional intelligence and client aggression: A cross‐sectional study. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 25(8), 506-516. Web.

Diehl, E., Rieger, S., Letzel, S., Schablon, A., Nienhaus, A., Escobar Pinzon, L. C., & Dietz, P. (2021). The relationship between workload and burnout among nurses: The buffering role of personal, social and organisational resources. PloS ONE, 16(1), e0245798. Web.

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Montgomery, A. P., Azuero, A., Baernholdt, M., Loan, L. A., Miltner, R. S., Qu, H., & Patrician, P. A. (2021). Nurse burnout predicts self-reported medication administration errors in acute care hospitals. The Journal for Healthcare Quality (JHQ), 43(1), 13-23. Web.

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Munir, Y., Ghafoor, M. M., & Rasli, A. M. (2018). Perception of ethical climate and turnover intention among nursing staff: Does organizational cynicism mediate? International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare, 11(5), 319-332. Web.