Background: Early-career burnout among nurses can influence health and professional development, as well as quality of care. However, the prospective occupational consequences of study burnout have not previously been investigated in a national sample using a longitudinal design.
Objectives: To prospectively monitor study burnout for a national sample of nursing students during their years in higher education and at follow-up 1 year post graduation. Further, to relate the possible development of study burnout to prospective health and life outcomes, as well as student and occupational outcomes.
Design: A longitudinal cohort of Swedish nursing students (within the population-based LANE (Longitudinal Analysis of Nursing Education/Entry) study) from all sites of education in Sweden was surveyed annually. Data were collected at four points in time over 4 years: three times during higher education and 1 year post graduation.
Participants: : A longitudinal sample of 1702 respondents was prospectively followed from late autumn 2002 to spring 2006.
Methods: Mean level changes of study burnout (as measured by the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory, i.e. the Exhaustion and Disengagement subscales) across time, as well as prospective effects of baseline study burnout and changes in study burnout levels, were estimated using Latent Growth Curve Modeling.
Results: An increase in study burnout (from 30% to 41%) across 3 years in higher education was found, and levels of both Exhaustion and Disengagement increased significantly across the years in education (p<0.001). Baseline levels, as well as development of study burnout, predicted lower levels of in-class learner engagement and occupational preparedness in the final year. At follow-up 1 year post graduation, earlier development of study burnout was related to lower mastery of occupational tasks, less research utilization in everyday clinical practice and higher turnover intentions.
Conclusions: The results suggest that study burnout may have interfered with learning and psychological well-being. Aspects related to work skills and intention to leave the profession were also affected. Thus, burnout development during higher education may be an important concern, and effective preventive measures to counteract burnout development may be necessary already at the outset of nursing education.
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