Determinants and prevalence of burnout in emergency nurses: a systematic review of 25 years of research

Int J Nurs Stud. 2015 Feb;52(2):649-61. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2014.11.004. Epub 2014 Nov 11.


Background: Burnout is an important problem in health care professionals and is associated with a decrease in occupational well-being and an increase in absenteeism, turnover and illness. Nurses are found to be vulnerable to burnout, but emergency nurses are even more so, since emergency nursing is characterized by unpredictability, overcrowding and continuous confrontation with a broad range of diseases, injuries and traumatic events.

Objectives: This systematic review aims (1) to explore the prevalence of burnout in emergency nurses and (2) to identify specific (individual and work related) determinants of burnout in this population.

Method: A systematic review of empirical quantitative studies on burnout in emergency nurses, published in English between 1989 and 2014.

Data sources: The databases NCBI PubMed, Embase, ISI Web of Knowledge, Informa HealthCare, Picarta, Cinahl and Scielo were searched.

Results: Seventeen studies were included in this review. On average 26% of the emergency nurses suffered from burnout. Individual factors such as demographic variables, personality characteristics and coping strategies were predictive of burnout. Work related factors such as exposure to traumatic events, job characteristics and organizational variables were also found to be determinants of burnout in this population.

Conclusions: Burnout rates in emergency nurses are high. Job demands, job control, social support and exposure to traumatic events are determinants of burnout, as well as several organizational variables. As a consequence specific action targets for hospital management are formulated to prevent turnover and burnout in emergency nurses.

Keywords: Burnout; Emergency nursing; Literature review; Occupational stress; Work characteristics.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology*
  • Emergency Nursing*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence