The relationship between workload and burnout among nurses: The buffering role of personal, social and organisational resources

PLoS One. 2021 Jan 22;16(1):e0245798. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0245798. eCollection 2021.


Workload in the nursing profession is high, which is associated with poor health. Thus, it is important to get a proper understanding of the working situation and to analyse factors which might be able to mitigate the negative effects of such a high workload. In Germany, many people with serious or life-threatening illnesses are treated in non-specialized palliative care settings such as nursing homes, hospitals and outpatient care. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the buffering role of resources on the relationship between workload and burnout among nurses. A nationwide cross-sectional survey was applied. The questionnaire included parts of the Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire (COPSOQ) (scale 'quantitative demands' measuring workload, scale 'burnout', various scales to resources), the resilience questionnaire RS-13 and single self-developed questions. Bivariate and moderator analyses were performed. Palliative care aspects, such as the 'extent of palliative care', were incorporated to the analyses as covariates. 497 nurses participated. Nurses who reported 'workplace commitment', a 'good working team' and 'recognition from supervisor' conveyed a weaker association between 'quantitative demands' and 'burnout' than those who did not. On average, nurses spend 20% of their working time with palliative care. Spending more time than this was associated with 'burnout'. The results of our study imply a buffering role of different resources on burnout. Additionally, the study reveals that the 'extent of palliative care' may have an impact on nurse burnout, and should be considered in future studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology*
  • Burnout, Professional / prevention & control*
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurses / organization & administration*
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workload / psychology*
  • Workplace / psychology

Grant support

The research was funded by the BGW - Berufsgenossenschaft für Gesundheitsdienst und Wohlfahrtspflege (Institution for Statutory Accident Insurance and Prevention in Health and Welfare Services). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.