Empathy in paediatric intensive care nurses part 1: Behavioural and psychological correlates

J Adv Nurs. 2017 Nov;73(11):2676-2685. doi: 10.1111/jan.13333. Epub 2017 Jun 13.

Abstract

Aim: To determine if differences exist between paediatric intensive care nurses and allied health professionals in empathy, secondary trauma, burnout, pain exposure and pain ratings of self and others. Early and late career differences were also examined.

Background: Nurses are routinely exposed to patient pain expression. This work context may make them vulnerable to adverse outcomes such as desensitization to patient pain or a compromise in personal well-being.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Methods: Data were collected from a convenience sample of paediatric intensive care nurses (n = 27) and allied health professionals (n = 24), from September 2014-June 2015, at a Canadian health centre. Both groups completed one demographic and three behavioural scales. Participants underwent fMRI while rating the pain of infant and adult patients in a series of video clips. Data were analyzed using parametric and non-parametric methods. fMRI results are reported in a second paper.

Results: Nurses were significantly more likely to be exposed to pain at work than allied health professionals and scored significantly higher on dimensions of empathy, secondary trauma and burnout. Nurses scored their own pain and the pain of infant and adult patients, higher than allied health participants. Less experienced nurses had higher secondary trauma and burnout scores than more experienced nurses.

Conclusions: Paediatric intensive care work demands, such as patient pain exposure, may be associated with nurse's higher report of empathy and pain in self and others, but also with higher levels of secondary trauma and burnout, when compared with allied health professionals.

Keywords: burnout; child nursing; pain; relationships.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Pain / nursing
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Workforce