Can personal psychological resources reduce burnout and turnover in Australian hospital nurses?

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Sam Eley
Peter Hassmen


Depersonalisation, emotional exhaustion, intent to quit, nurse retention, nursing, psychological capital


Objective: To examine whether personal psychological resources safeguard hospital nurses against adverse workplace consequences, particularly job burnout and the desire to leave the profession.

Background: Nursing research has extensively documented the adverse effects of job burnout and staff turnover. With the current nursing shortage, it is imperative to identify resources and strategies that can mitigate adverse workplace outcomes. However, the role of personal psychological resources, or psychological capital, in aiding nurses to perform effectively in their work environment remains relatively unexplored.

Study design and methods: This study adopted a cross-sectional survey design. The survey assessed nurses’ experienced burnout (MBI-HSS), psychological capital (PCQ-24), and intentions to leave nursing. Hospital nurses (n= 258) from six states of Australia responded to an online anonymous survey between June and November 2022.

Results: Respondents indicated a high degree of experienced burnout: 68.6% experienced high emotional exhaustion, 31.8% had high depersonalisation, and 31.8% had low personal accomplishment. Additionally, 38.8% had high intentions to leave the profession. Emotional exhaustion (p<.001, b=.56) and personal accomplishment (p=.006, b=-.15) were significant predictors of turnover intentions. Higher psychological capital was significantly associated with lower emotional exhaustion (p<.001, b=-.42), lower depersonalisation (p<.001, b=-.29), higher personal accomplishment (p<.001, b=.60), and lower turnover intentions (p<.001, b=.44).

Discussion: Much of the nursing burnout and intent to leave literature focuses on negative rather than positive aspects of the work environment. Positive responses to workplace stimuli promote positive attitudes such as empowerment, job satisfaction, and organisational commitment that have a tangible impact on personal and occupational wellbeing. This may explain why nurses with stronger personal psychological resources experienced less burnout and voiced fewer intentions to leave the profession.

Conclusion: The health and wellbeing of nurses should be a priority for healthcare organisations; the working conditions nurses face in Australian hospitals cause many to be negatively impacted by work stress.

Implications for Research, Policy, and Practice: Nurses would benefit from initiatives to enhance their psychological resources. Targeted interventions to develop psychological capital should be examined in a nursing population. This can change policy, thereby benefitting the healthcare system.

What is already known about the topic?

  • Australia is currently facing a shortage of qualified nurses.

  • Hospital nurses often experience job burnout and high levels of turnover due to the challenging nature of their work environment.

  • Personal psychological resources have been linked to positive workplace outcomes, such as job satisfaction and organisational commitment, in various settings.

What this paper adds:

  • It demonstrates that nurses possessing greater personal psychological resources experience lower levels of burnout and are less likely to consider leaving the profession.

  • The paper suggests that implementing targeted interventions designed to enhance nurses’ personal psychological resources could be a viable approach for mitigating burnout and turnover intentions (TI).

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