The relevance of psychosocial variables and working conditions in predicting nurses' coping strategies during the SARS crisis: an online questionnaire survey

Int J Nurs Stud. 2007 Aug;44(6):991-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2006.02.012. Epub 2006 Apr 17.


Objectives: The purpose of this investigation was to examine the relationship between psychosocial variables and working conditions, and nurses' coping methods and distress in response to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) crisis in Canada. PARTICIPANTS AND PROCEDURE: The sample consisted of 333 nurses (315 women, 18 men) who completed an Internet-mediated questionnaire that was posted on the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) website between March and May 2004. The questionnaire was restricted to respondents who had to authenticate their RNAO membership with a valid username and password before accessing the questionnaire. This served a dual purpose: to ensure that only RNAO nurses completed the questionnaire and thereby safeguarding the generalizability of the findings; and second, to prevent any one nurse from contributing more than once to the overall sample.

Results: Correlational analysis yielded several significant relationships between psychosocial variables and working conditions, and the traditional correlates of burnout and stress. Three multiple regression analysis revealed that the model we evolved--including higher levels of vigor, organizational support, and trust in equipment/infection control initiative; and lower levels of contact with SARS patients, and time spent in quarantine--predicted to lower levels of avoidance behavior, emotional exhaustion, and state anger.

Conclusions: By employing models of stress and burnout that combine psychosocial variables and working conditions, researchers can account for significant amounts of variance in outcomes related to burnout. These findings highlight the importance of vigor and perceived organizational support in predicting nurses' symptoms of burnout. For healthcare administrators, this means that a likely strategy for assuaging the negative outcomes of stress should address nurses' psychosocial concerns and the working conditions that they face during novel times of crisis.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional / prevention & control*
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Nursing Staff / psychology*
  • Ontario
  • Regression Analysis
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / nursing*
  • Socioeconomic Factors