Factors associated with emotional exhaustion in undergraduate and postgraduate nursing students
Background. Nursing students face dual stress from a combination of academic and clinical demands, which may affect their emotional wellbeing. Poor emotional wellbeing may prevent them from gaining the necessary knowledge and skills to care for patients.
Objectives. To describe and compare levels of emotional exhaustion, personal accomplishment, compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue and perceived stress of undergraduate and postgraduate nursing students, and to determine the influence of compassion fatigue, perceived stress and disengaged coping on emotional exhaustion.
Methods. This study was a cross-sectional descriptive survey at a purposively selected South African university. There were 685 students, of whom 471 (68.8%) completed the questionnaire, which comprised a biographical section, as well as standardised and validated scales.
Results. The respondents obtained a moderate score for perceived stress and were at average risk for emotional exhaustion and compassion fatigue. There were statistically significant differences between undergraduates and postgraduates on all scales, with undergraduates faring the worst. Stress from assignments and workload, lack of professional knowledge and skills, teachers and nursing staff and compassion fatigue made a statistically significant contribution to the prediction of emotional exhaustion in undergraduates. Compassion fatigue and stress from assignments and workload made a statistically significant contribution to the prediction of emotional exhaustion in postgraduates.
Conclusion. Nursing students had moderate stress scores and were at average risk for emotional exhaustion and compassion fatigue, with undergraduate students faring the worst. Schools of nursing should prioritise the emotional wellbeing of their students, particularly that of undergraduates.
M Engelbrecht, Centre for Health Systems Research & Development, Faculty of the Humanities, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
M Wilke, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
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Date published: 2021-07-21
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