Compassion satisfaction and fatigue: A cross-sectional survey of Australian intensive care nurses

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Critical Care, 2018, 31 (6), pp. 396 - 405
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© 2017 Australian College of Critical Care Nurses Ltd Background: Compassion satisfaction and compassion fatigue influence nurses’ intention to stay or leave nursing. Identification of compassion satisfaction or fatigue in critical care nurses is important in this high turnover workforce. Objectives: The aim of this study was to examine factors predicting and contributing to compassion satisfaction and compassion fatigue experienced by critical care nurses in Australian intensive care units. Methods: A self-reported cross-sectional survey using an established tool collected data from critical care nurses of two adult Australian intensive care units. Results: Overall, these critical care nurses reported what Professional Quality of Life Scale guidelines designated as ‘average’ levels of compassion satisfaction and burnout, and ‘low’ levels of Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS). Compared to Site B, nurses at Site A had significantly higher compassion satisfaction (p = 0.008) and lower STS scores (p = 0.025), with site significantly predictive for compassion satisfaction (p < 0.024) and STS (p < 0.002). Nurses with postgraduate qualifications had significantly higher compassion satisfaction scores (p = 0.027), and compassion satisfaction significantly increased with increasing duration of practice (p = 0.042) as a nurse and in their current ICU (p = 0.038). Burnout scores significantly reduced with increasing age, years of tenure and practice; burnout was predicted by lower years of tenure (p < 0.016). Conclusion: These critical care nurses revealed profiles that, whilst not in crisis, fell short of the ideal high compassion satisfaction and moderate/low fatigue. More recent tenure flags those potentially at higher risk of compassion fatigue, whilst the better scores associated with postgraduate education and from one site need further exploration. Further research should develop understanding and interventions to enhance compassion satisfaction and support retention of this crucial nursing workforce.
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