(1) Background. In caretaking professions, attachment style and mentalization capacities are essential factors for establishing an effective caretaker-patient relationship and for buffering burnout. While attachment avoidance and dependency are considered risk factors for burnout, impairment in mentalization capacity is associated with psychological distress and ineffective emotion regulation. (2) Objective: Evaluating the attachment style and mentalization capacity in nurse professionals and nursing students. We further investigated the impact of these factors on burnout in professional nurses. (3) Method: 94 nursing students and 94 controls and 34 professional nurses completed the Attachment Style Questionnaire (ASQ) and the Reflective Functioning Questionnaire (RFQ). For professional nurses, the Maslach's Burnout Inventory (MBI) was also administered. (4) Results: Nursing students exhibited lower scores in secure attachment and higher scores in anxiety over relationships compared to controls while no difference in mentalization capacity was found between both groups. Importantly, attachment anxiety resulted a significant predictor of burnout in professional nurses. (5) Conclusions: Nursing students might compensate their attachment insecurity with high mentalization. Attachment security may play a protective role against burnout in the professional nurses. Education programs aimed at enhancing mentalizing abilities might facilitate nursing students' entrance in the forthcoming clinical environment and practice. Implementing training strategies based on attachment theory may contribute to burnout prevention in nurse professionals.
Keywords: attachment style; burnout; mentalization; nursing students; professional nurses.