Effect of Meaningful Recognition on Critical Care Nurses' Compassion Fatigue

Am J Crit Care. 2017 Nov;26(6):438-444. doi: 10.4037/ajcc2017471.


Background: As caregivers in high-pressure environments, critical care nurses are at risk for burnout and secondary trauma-components of compassion fatigue. Recent findings have increased understanding of the phenomena, specifically that satisfaction and meaningful recognition may play a role in reducing burnout and raising compassion satisfaction; however, no large multisite studies of compassion fatigue have been conducted.

Objectives: To examine the effect of meaningful recognition and other predictors on compassion fatigue in a multicenter national sample of critical care nurses.

Methods: A quantitative, descriptive online survey was completed by 726 intensive care unit nurses in 14 hospitals with an established meaningful recognition program and 410 nurses in 10 hospitals without such a program. Site coordinators at each hospital coordinated distribution of the survey to nurses to assess multiple predictors against outcomes, measured by the Professional Quality of Life Scale. Cross-validation and linear regression modeling were conducted to determine significant predictors of burnout, secondary traumatic stress, and compassion satisfaction.

Results: Similar levels of burnout, secondary traumatic stress, compassion satisfaction, overall satisfaction, and intent to leave were reported by nurses in hospitals with and without meaningful recognition programs. Meaningful recognition was a significant predictor of decreased burnout and increased compassion satisfaction. Additionally, job satisfaction and job enjoyment were highly predictive of decreased burnout, decreased secondary traumatic stress, and increased compassion satisfaction.

Conclusions: In addition to acknowledging and valuing nurses' contributions to care, meaningful recognition could reduce burnout and boost compassion satisfaction.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arizona
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Compassion Fatigue / psychology*
  • Critical Care / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Recognition, Psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires