Stress and burnout in forensic mental health nursing: a literature review

Br J Nurs. 2008;17(2):82-7. doi: 10.12968/bjon.2008.17.2.28133.


Forensic mental health nurses who work with patients who have severe and enduring mental health needs have been identified as at risk of suffering from occupational stress, and even developing burnout syndrome. Therefore, this article reviews the available literature on stress and burnout in inpatient forensic mental health nursing to identify the stressors and to highlight recommendations. From the review, the main stressors placed on forensic nurses are identified as interprofessional conflicts, workload, and lack of involvement in decision-making. Recommendations to reduce stress and burnout for nurses within this specialty are highlighted. These are identified as follows: staff should have easy access to support systems including clinical supervision; managers should foster an open and honest culture to enable staff members to express their feelings openly or in confidence and learn how to deal with their frustrations; and staff should be encouraged to rotate wards to increase personal and professional development and reduce boredom and apathy. Furthermore, staff should be provided with, and encouraged to undertake, continuing professional development which may include psychosocial interventions training.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Burnout, Professional* / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional* / etiology
  • Burnout, Professional* / prevention & control
  • Burnout, Professional* / psychology
  • Decision Making, Organizational
  • Forensic Nursing / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Staff* / organization & administration
  • Nursing Staff* / psychology
  • Occupational Health
  • Psychiatric Nursing / organization & administration*
  • Research Design
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support
  • Workload / psychology
  • Workplace / organization & administration
  • Workplace / psychology