Research| Volume 36, ISSUE 5, P420-427, September 2010

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Compassion Satisfaction, Burnout, and Compassion Fatigue Among Emergency Nurses Compared With Nurses in Other Selected Inpatient Specialties


      Today the proportion of acute patients entering the health care system through emergency departments continues to grow, the number of uninsured patients relying primarily on treatment in the emergency department is increasing, and patients' average acuities are rising. At the same time, support resources are constrained, while reimbursement and reputation depends increasingly on publicly available measures of patient satisfaction. It is important to understand the potential effect of these pressures on direct care staff. This study explores the prevalence of compassion satisfaction, burnout, and compassion fatigue among emergency nurses and nurses in other selected inpatient specialties.


      Emergency nurses and nurses from 3 other specialty units self-selected participation in a cross-sectional survey. Participants completed a sociodemographic profile and the Professional Quality of Life: Compassion Satisfaction and Fatigue Subscales, R-IV. Scale scores were summed for compassion satisfaction, burnout, and compassion fatigue for emergency nurses and compared with those of nurses in other specialties.


      Approximately 82% of emergency nurses had moderate to high levels of burnout, and nearly 86% had moderate to high levels of compassion fatigue. Differences between emergency nurses and those working in 3 other specialty areas, that is, oncology, nephrology, and intensive care, on the subscales for compassion satisfaction, burnout, or compassion fatigue did not reach the level of statistical significance. However, the scores of emergency nurses evidenced a risk for less compassion satisfaction, while intensive care nurses demonstrated a higher risk for burnout and oncology nurses reflected a risk for higher compassion fatigue.


      ED nurse managers, along with other nurse leaders, are faced with the competing demands of managing the satisfaction of patients, recruitment and retention of experienced nurses, and provision of quality and safe care customized to patients' needs and preferences. Understanding the concepts of compassion satisfaction, burnout, and compassion fatigue, recognizing the signs and symptoms, and identifying best practice interventions, will help nurses maintain caring attitudes with patients and contribute to patient satisfaction.

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      Crystal Hooper is Nurse Manager, Emergency Department, AnMed Health Medical Center, Anderson, SC.


      Janet Craig is Associate Professor, School of Nursing, Clemson University, Greenville, SC.


      David R. Janvrin is Operations Analyst, AnMed Health, Anderson, SC.


      Margaret A. Wetsel is Associate Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator, Clemson University, Clemson, SC.


      Elaine Reimels is Senior Director, AnMed Health Heart and Vascular Care, AnMed Health Medical Center, Anderson, SC.

      Linked Article

      • Hardiness as a Defense Against Compassion Fatigue and Burnout
        Journal of Emergency NursingVol. 37Issue 2
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          The research article, “Compassion Satisfaction, Burnout, and Compassion Fatigue Among Emergency Nurses Compared with Nurses in Other Selected Inpatient Specialties”1 was of particular interest to me as a leader of emergency nurses. The researchers' findings rejected the hypothesis that emergency nurses were more likely to suffer burnout and compassion fatigue than were inpatient nurses. I am responding to the article to offer suggestions from the literature that may serve to combat the problems of burnout and compassion fatigue.
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