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The Impact of Burnout on the Quality of Medical Care


One of the central focuses of clinical care continues to be the unwavering desire of workers to provide the best possible care for the patient’s health and to create the most constructive environment for rapid, pain-free, and effective recovery. Patients use clinical organizations for this very purpose, but it is not uncommon for the treatment experience to be not only ineffective but even damaging. In this sense, special attention should be paid to the problem of nurses’ professional burnout, which is spreading increasingly widely, all the more so in conditions of pandemic stress. It is believed that clinical care from nurses with professional burnout is comparably worse than from nurses without burnout. The present research paper seeks to evaluate this thesis critically.

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PICOT Question

Are patients who received medical care from nurses suffering from job burnout less likely to recover at the same time compared with Patients who received medical care from nurses who are not suffering from job burnout?

The Topicality of the Problem

Burnout in this research work is understood as a mental and physical state of a worker that is accompanied by cynicism, apathy, and lack of interest in the work performed. Burnout in the conditions of the health care sector, as it seems obvious, is the most serious problem because it is expected that such a state of a clinical worker has a destructive impact on the patient’s recovery experience. Meanwhile, occupational burnout is not an uncommon problem, and statistics report an increasing trend. Specifically, there are reports that nearly 43% of all nurses in the United States have symptoms of burnout (Reith, 2018). A more recent study reported that two-thirds of nurses appear to be at risk for emotional burnout (Bruyneel et al., 2021). Meanwhile, approximately one in three nurses in the U.S. fired in 2018 were fired for reasons related to professional burnout (Shah et al., 2021). Such data creates tension in the issue of quality patient care, as it becomes apparent that patient interaction with a nurse experiencing burnout is not an uncommon practice.

Providing Quality Care

A nurse experiencing burnout is psychologically and physically drained and visibly loses interest and motivation to work successfully. In such a state, many people cannot be motivated even by intentionally increasing salaries because they are already satiated with the activity they are performing. Nevertheless, it is essential to emphasize that burnout is not the same as ceasing to do professional work because often, especially in medical personnel, the activity being performed is critical to society. To put it another way, nurses, as a rule, may not be able to take a break and leave their jobs, which means that the problem of burnout will continue to catalyze.

Particularly burnout among nurses has become a problem in the last two years, associated with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the destructive effects of an unknown virus, tens of millions of people around the world have found themselves in need of medical care, putting a natural strain on the clinical system (Bruyneel et al., 2021). The unrelenting flow of new inpatients in a bed-strewn environment forced medical personnel to work at their very best to provide at least minimal care for the sick. It turned out that under such conditions, nurses developed the symptoms of professional burnout much faster, which means that the deleterious effect of burnout is intensified.

One of the main consequences of a nurse’s burnout includes the lack of interest in the result of a patient’s treatment. Seeing an endless stream of patients constantly changing, a nurse finds herself in danger of losing her personalized approach to them. Patients may become just another object for her to implement her professional competencies, which means that their personal experiences, interests, and needs risk going unnoticed by the nurse. In addition, this has the potential to affect the effectiveness of communication between the nurse and patients. Communication is known to be a predictor of quality nursing care, as it is communication that helps identify critical issues and adjust recovery in a personalized way. Nevertheless, a burned-out nurse may not be interested in communicating with the patient, which consequently affects the quality of care received.

Because the professional focus of any nurse’s activity is set on ensuring patient safety, burnout can interfere with this outcome. Because of difficulties related to emotional well-being, nurses may feel unappreciated and insignificant (Dalmolin et al., 2012). During interactions with patients, these feelings may be relayed to them, leading to moral decline in sick people. In addition to the fact that their physical health was already under stress, additional emotional pressure from nurses can only delay recovery. Thus, the burned-out nurse has difficulty being empathetic and interested in the patient’s problems.

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A central determinant of professional burnout remains overwork when nurses are forced to work more than work commitments require. This problem seems especially urgent now when the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing clinics to be overproductive. Literature data clearly shows that for those healthcare organizations where nurses worked more than thirteen hours, the rate of burnout was higher (Stimpfel et al., 2012). In turn, this affected clients’ perceived care: average service scores were significantly lower for such clinics. In other words, patients who interacted with burnout nurses were not willing to recommend these clinics because of substandard care.

Meanwhile, another threat of burnout to patient safety is increased staff turnover. As noted above, one in three nurses in the United States has been fired for reasons associated with burnout problems. This creates an environment within a single clinic in which nurses are very often fired, and new employees take their place. Although there is no problem with staff renewal per se, high turnover threatens ineffective communication between the workforce and in the patient-nurse system. In particular, new nurses must build relationships with patients from the ground up and integrate them into the workforce, which takes time and effort from all stakeholders. Potentially, there is a threat when the current team will not accept a new employee since it is likely that they will quickly as it is. Ultimately, all of these issues have an impact on patient safety.


To summarize, burnout is a serious professional problem that is critical in the medical sector. Burnout nurses have low engagement and interest in the operational processes of the clinic, which has an expected impact on patient well-being. Such nurses may reduce the intensity of communication, ignore the client’s personal interests, and be generally disinterested in the outcome of patient care. In addition, the problem of burnout creates a high turnover rate, which in turn can be disruptive to the patient and the workforce. As a consequence, nurse managers should carefully monitor the problems associated with burnout of their subordinates and suggest preventive actions to contain these threats.


Bruyneel, A., Smith, P., Tack, J., & Pirson, M. (2021). Prevalence of burnout risk and factors associated with burnout risk among ICU nurses during the COVID-19 outbreak in French-speaking Belgium. Intensive and Critical Care Nursing, 65, 1-7. Web.

Dalmolin, G. D. L., Lunardi, V. L., Barlem, E. L. D., & Silveira, R. S. D. (2012). Implications of moral distress on nurses and its similarities with Burnout. Texto & Contexto-Enfermagem, 21, 200-208. Web.

Reith, T. P. (2018). Burnout in United States healthcare professionals: A narrative review. Cureus, 10(12), 1-9. Web.

Shah, M. K., Gandrakota, N., Cimiotti, J. P., Ghose, N., Moore, M., & Ali, M. K. (2021). Prevalence of and factors associated with nurse burnout in the US. JAMA Network Open, 4(2), 1-11. Web.

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Stimpfel, A. W., Sloane, D. M., & Aiken, L. H. (2012). The longer the shifts for hospital nurses, the higher the levels of burnout and patient dissatisfaction. Health Affairs, 31(11), 2501-2509. Web.

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