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Nurses Role Overload and Burnout in Intensive Care


Research studies should withstand scientific criticism and scrutiny. The criticism determines or identifies the objectivity of studies, their strengths, and weakness. In nursing, the research aims majorly at improving the quality of care delivered to patients by addressing factors affecting the profession, patients, or resources utilized in care delivery among many others. Role overload in workplaces increases burnout levels in these professionals, but the use of managerial coping strategies helps in mitigating these stresses. This paper critiques Mohamed’s (2016) study titled “Relationship among nurses role overload, burnout, and managerial coping strategies at intensive care units” and published in the International Journal of Nursing and Clinical Practices.

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Research Problem and Purpose

Nurses are exposed to stress when at work because they deal with stressed patients. The stressful working environment, working in shifts, providing care for critically ill patients, and the process of becoming a profession are stressful. Stress, which can be caused by role overload, is the leading cause of burnout. Most of the intensive care unit nurses experience burnout, and it is only through effective managerial coping strategies that these professionals can cope with work-related stresses. Mohamed (2016) placed the problem under investigation within the context of existing knowledge by reviewing the literature on aspects of nurse role overload, burnout, and managerial coping strategies. This study will help solve the problem of burnout in nurses through the adoption of coping strategies. It purposes to examine the association between role overload, burnout, and managerial coping strategies in ICU nurses.

Review of the Literature

The key concepts explored in the literature review are role overload, burnout, and coping strategies in nurses. Mohamed (2016) explains that nurses are the most impacted health professionals with burnout, especially those in the ICU because of the nature of their work. With burnout, nurses employ different coping strategies. According to the literature, role overload is a stressor with burnout being the reaction to the stress. Strategies for coping moderate or weaken the relationship between burnout and role overload. The literature review is pertinent to the study. However, some of the literature sources are outdated. For instance, some sources were published in 1994. Such a thing is evident probably due to insufficient research on the study topic in recent years.

Theoretical Framework

The researcher explicitly defined many concepts related to the study including the variables under investigation. For example, burnout is “a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy” (Mohamed, 2016, p. 1). Coping strategies include resigned distancing, passive wishful thinking, rational problem solving, and seeking support. The study relies mainly on nursing theory, although a theoretical framework was not stated. However, Callista Roy’s Adaptation Model (RAM) would have been the most appropriate. In this study, nurses are examined on how they adapt to role overload and burnout using managerial coping strategies. Adaptation to environmental stressors is the fundamental concept of RAM. Such a thing indicates how RAM can be a useful framework for guiding the research.

Research Variables and Questions

Role overload is the independent variable while burnout and managerial coping strategies are dependent variables. However, confounding variables like the age of nurses, marital status, academic qualification, and experience have an influence on burnout and coping strategies. Operational definitions of both independent and dependent variables are given and are measurable and concrete. Mohamed (2016) explicitly stated the research questions. The first question is: is there an association between nurse role overload and managerial coping strategies? The second one is: is there an association between nurse burnout and managerial coping strategies?


This qualitative study used a descriptive design. It utilized inductive reasoning by drawing information from literature about role overload, burnout, and managerial coping strategies in nurses before collecting and analyzing data to make precise conclusions about their relationships. Mohamed (2016) does not explain the sample size but says that all nurses in four ICUs (postoperative, casualty, general, and coronary care units) in Assiut University Hospital were recruited. Alpha or internal consistency reliability is evident for the measurement tools, in which nursing administration experts measured their construct validity. Ethical considerations were addressed. The study protocol received authority approval, officials from the study setting gave permission to collect data, and participants gave oral informed consent. Participants were further assured of information confidentiality.

Data Analysis

SPSS 16.0 software was utilized in both the entry and analysis of data. The presentation of this data was through descriptive statistics. Mohamed (2016) further explains that Pearson and Spearman’s rank correlations were utilized for the interrelationship assessment of variables. The researcher found no association between role overload and managerial coping strategies. Furthermore, there was no relationship between role overload and burnout. However, a positive correlation existed between burnout and the coping strategies with significant statistical differences [r = 0.49] (Mohamed, 2016). Such a thing shows that nurses with burnout are likely to use managerial coping strategies.

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Conclusion, Implications, and Recommendations

After collecting and analyzing data, the research drew some conclusions by answering the research questions. Mohamed (2016) concluded that Assiut University Hospital ICU nurses experience substantial burnout levels. They were more likely to utilize managerial coping strategies after experiencing burnout. Some of the most used coping strategies include resigned distancing, passive wishful thinking, seeking support or ventilation, and rational problem solving (Mohamed, 2016). Although seeking support had a genitive association with role overload in professional ICU nurses, the other managerial coping strategies had a positive relationship.

The study findings that led to recommendations of implicates nursing practice in many ways. The findings indicate that nurses experience differing levels of stress due to the variations in their work. For example, nurses who work in ICUs experience higher stress levels that their colleagues from other units. As a result, Mohamed (2016) recommends that nurse leaders and administrators should rotate these professionals from one hospital unit to the other with the aim of buffering negative experiences associated with practice settings. There is also a need to implement training programs on stress coping strategies to help these professionals effectively react to both role overload and burnout. Additionally, nurse managers should recognize passive coping as effective coping strategies to reduce role overload and burnout in nurses in addition to workforce reallocation and changing of leadership styles (Mohamed, 2016). Therefore, the findings and conclusions of this study implicate nursing practice, especially if the recommendations are implemented.

Although the study has some limitations, its strengths are essential in making generalizations of the findings. The study dwelled on only one hospital instead of taking large samples from different hospitals. Such a thing means that its results cannot be generalized to reflect the occurrence of burnout, role overload, and managerial coping strategies in other hospitals across the world. Additionally, the study only dwelled on ICUs, which makes the assertion that nurses in these units are the most affected with burnout and role overload null and void because comparisons on this issue were not studied. However, the study utilized valid and reliable data collection tools. Also, ethics were upheld during the whole research process.


Mohamed, F. R. (2016). Relationship among nurses role overload, burnout, and managerial coping strategies at intensive care units. International Journal of Nursing & Clinical Practices, 3(180), 1-6.

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