Survey finds high burnout levels among nurses


ONE-THIRD OF nurses across the State believe the quality of patient care provided in their hospitals has deteriorated over the past year, according to a new survey.

Carried out by the School of Nursing at Dublin City University, the survey also found evidence of high levels of burnout among nursing staff.

Some 1,406 nurses in 115 units in 30 hospitals were surveyed for the research, which is part of a longer term Europe-wide study looking at nurses’ qualifications, productivity, their working environment and its impact on the retention of nurses, as well as patient outcomes.

Overall, 32 per cent of nurses said the quality of patient care in their hospitals had deteriorated in the past year. Another 44 per cent said it had remained the same and 24 per cent felt it had improved.

When asked how they rated patient safety on their units, 62 per cent said it was very good or excellent. Another 31 per cent rated it as acceptable and 7 per cent believed it was poor.

In relation to the quality of nursing care in their units, the majority – 90 per cent – felt it was good or excellent. The remainder rated it fair or poor.

Most of the nurses surveyed were female and aged 20-39 years. More than 80 per cent of them worked full-time and about two-thirds had received their basic nursing education in Ireland. Some 60 per cent had a degree in nursing.

The findings also suggest high levels of burnout among nurses practising in medical and surgical units across the State, with 41 per cent of those surveyed reporting “high” levels of emotional exhaustion.

Just 22 per cent agreed there were enough staff members in their unit to get the work done.

Despite their concerns, 69 per cent said they would “probably or definitely” recommend their hospital to a colleague as a good place to work, while 78 per cent said they would “probably or definitely” recommend it to family or friends as a place in which to receive care.

The research was presented at the 10th annual conference of the National Council for the Professional Development of Nursing and Midwifery in Dublin last week.

A second study presented looked at patterns of hospital discharges during 2009 at the Mercy Hospital in Cork and found they were less frequent at weekends.

Sunday was the most common day for cancellation of elective admissions due to lack of bed availability. This was also the day when there were fewest hospital discharges.

The study concluded that delays in discharges at weekends often reflected different weekend work practices in the hospital. “There was a lack of available doctors who knew the patients well enough to discharge them,” it said.

In addition, there was a tendency not to discharge at the weekend older patients who were living alone. But there was no evidence a lack of community support services was the major reason they tended to go home on Mondays rather than at the weekend.

The hospital has now developed a number of initiatives to address the issues highlighted in the study.