Assessing the Presence of Post-Traumatic Stress and Turnover Intention Among Nurses Post-Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Outbreak: The Importance of Supervisor Support

Workplace Health Saf. 2020 Jul;68(7):337-345. doi: 10.1177/2165079919897693. Epub 2020 Mar 9.


Background: South Korea faced the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak for the first time in 2015, which resulted in 186 infected patients and 39 deaths. This study investigated the level of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and turnover intention, the relationship between PTSD and turnover intention, and the buffering effect of supervisor support among nurses post-MERS outbreak. Methods: In total, 300 nurses from three of 15 isolation hospitals in South Korea were invited to participate. We collected data pertaining to PTSD, turnover intention, supervisor support, work-related factors, and socio-demographic factors through a structured survey distributed to the nurses at the hospitals after the outbreak. For the statistical analyses, descriptive statistics and multiple regression were employed. Findings: Of the 147 participants, 33.3% were involved in the direct care of the infected patients, whereas 66.7% were involved in the direct care of the suspected patients. More than half (57.1%) of the nurses experienced PTSD, with 25.1% experienced full PTSD and 32.0% with moderate or some level of PTSD. The mean score of turnover intention was 16.3, with the score range of 4 to 20. The multiple regression analysis revealed that PTSD was positively associated with turnover intention, and supervisor support had a strong buffering effect. Conclusion/Application to Practice: These findings confirmed that after a fatal infectious disease outbreak like MERS, nurses experience high level of PTSD and show high intention to leave. Organizational strategies to help nurses to cope with stress and to prevent turnover intention, especially using supervisor support, would be beneficial.

Keywords: nurses; post-traumatic stress disorder; supervisor support; turnover intention.

MeSH terms

  • Coronavirus Infections*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Isolation
  • Humans
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology
  • Occupational Stress*
  • Personnel Turnover / statistics & numerical data*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Republic of Korea
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires