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Role Strain and Burnout in Nursing

The nursing sector is confronting major hurdles related to role strain and burnout. These issues harm nurses and the quality of care provided to patients. In cases where there is an overpowering degree of role strain, healthcare professionals might encounter physical or psychological problems (McGovern, 2022). This might lead them to exhaustion – with disastrous outcomes for their clients’ health needs. In this scenario, it is essential to prioritize ethical considerations since healthcare professionals under stress may overlook safety guidelines, undermining patients’ confidence. Moreover, individuals must prioritize their health and cultivate robust support systems when working amidst high-pressure circumstances with limited control over work schedules. Organizational initiatives that promote wellness at all levels of the hierarchy are thus necessary to equip themselves better and enhance the efficacy of interventions as a preventative measure.

Effects of Role Strain

Impact on Nurses

Excessive role strain or stress on nurses may lead to physiological, psychological, and behavioral problems. According to (Andisi-Musambi, 2023), nurses can suffer physical symptoms such as stomachaches, muscle aches, drowsiness, and migraine due to role strain. The psychological effects may include elevated levels of anxiety and depression, greater irritability, poor concentration, and low motivation (McGovern, 2022). They can have absenteeism, higher turnover, substance abuse, and lower productivity at work (Ghavidel et al., 2019). Exposure to long-term role stress and strain will eventually result in burnout with emotional, physical, and cognitive fatigue symptoms, making it difficult for nurses to deliver competent and caring nursing care.

Impact on Patient Care

Role stress and strain influence the delivery of quality healthcare services to patients. Strained or stressed nurses might easily make more errors and need more time for patient attention (Jiang et al., 2022). Additionally, they might show low care, empathy, and compassion and sometimes use profane language or neglect clients. Besides, high-level role stress and strain may lead to some nurses’ resignations, resulting in a nursing shortage and poor healthcare offered to patients.

Ethical and legal issues

Ethical and legal issues are also associated with role stress and strain. If stressed, nurses are more likely to make errors, leading to reduced patient safety and possible instances where patients might get injured or even die (Jiang et al., 2022). Nurses under stress may also be unable to give enough explanation to patients, including explaining available treatments’ benefits and harms that can be brought about. According to Entus (2020), stressed nurses are prone to abandoning their posts, thereby depriving patients of care. Additionally, such stresses can make them engage in undignified attitudes toward their patients, thereby deteriorating the nurse-patient relationship and possible litigation.

Managing role strain

Stress and strain at work for nurses can be handled and reduced by using different techniques. It is important to identify and address the root causes of their anxieties. This can be achieved by determining factors that hinder nurses’ well-being at home and the workplace in a comprehensive approach. Equally important is setting practical expectations while seeking aid to evade excessive workload pressure. Under demanding circumstances, a nurse’s well-being can be managed by taking regular breaks during shifts, delegating tasks whenever possible, and focusing solely on what is important in nursing.

To alleviate role strain, it is crucial to establish a support system. Nurses must have dependable individuals such as counselors, friends, and family members whom they can confide in for assistance when required (Williams et al., 2022). Maintaining optimal physical and emotional health becomes imperative during times of stress. This involves ensuring suitable nutrition, sleep patterns, and exercise regimes that are advantageous towards overall well-being. Incorporating relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation has proven effective for nurses suffering from anxiety associated with challenges encountered while on the job (Barilla, 2021). If self-care approaches fail to provide adequate solutions to one’s problems, seeking guidance from an experienced therapist specializing in stress management may become essential for professionals in this industry.

Nurse Burnout

Excessive workloads and limited control over work schedules often cause nurse burnout. Nurses frequently face the challenge of coping with demanding roles and responsibilities, which can lead to exhaustion and ultimately result in a burnt-out state (Hopwood, 2021). However, there are various strategies that healthcare organizations can adopt to address this issue, such as maintaining adequate staffing levels in their facilities. Sufficient nursing staff is essential for ensuring a balanced distribution of duties among nurses, thus preventing emotional fatigue from setting in (Trinkoff et al., 2021). By pinpointing stressful tasks in advance, nurses can manage their time more effectively, helping them avoid being overly stressed in the long run. Another approach is to delegate appropriate responsibilities to nursing support staff. Through delegation, other personnel can handle strenuous tasks, relieving the nurses of some of their duties.

Nurses confront challenges concerning shift work, rotating schedules, and mandatory weekend and holiday assignments. This absence of autonomy in their professional lives can lead to higher levels of stress as well as difficulties balancing personal matters with their profession (Elizabeth et al., 2020). Increased flexibility regarding work hours could aid nurses in improving the balance between both realms. Strategies might incorporate self-scheduling or flextime scheduling options offering a range of shifts (8-hour, 10- or 12-hour) that accommodate individual preferences and requirements. Enabling nurses to request particular days off or exchange shifts with their colleagues is a means of improving their sense of authority. Informing them of their schedules beforehand can enhance their ability to plan personal matters proficiently and minimize ambiguity and tension. Open communication between nurse managers and the nursing team about scheduling issues, requests, or prospective modifications may promote collaboration while addressing individual needs.

Personal Reflection

Once, in my clinical practice, I was so stressed that my body could no longer take it. The workload that one had to cope with was also strenuous as it involved working longer shifts in a fast-paced ward. With personal stress added to the mix, it only intensified the pressure. Once, I had a challenging shift, loaded with many patients and constantly being called in various directions. This caused me to feel drained as well as overwhelmed. As time progressed, my exhaustion resulted in errors while working, leading to irritation toward colleagues and clients. After the shift, I felt exhausted and discouraged. The stressful work environment made me wonder if I could persevere in this field. Nevertheless, my passion for nursing remained strong, and quitting was not an option.

I approached my manager the following day and discussed what was troubling me. To my delight, she exhibited immense support, and together, we devised a strategy to handle the stressors while enhancing harmony between work tasks and personal life. To begin improving my well-being, I made alterations to my lifestyle. This included establishing a consistent exercise routine and carving out opportunities for hobbies that brought me happiness. Additionally, seeking guidance from a therapist was vital in addressing and managing the stressors affecting me.

In this context, I acquired new delegation skills while working. Also, I took more frequent breaks during the day and deliberately put myself first for self-care. When I was overwhelmed and could not manage more tasks, saying no was one of the options that came easily to me. Over time, my modifications started to bear a favorable outcome. This helped reduce my stress level and gave me increased control in managing my work obligations. Additionally, I can offer improved healthcare services to those under my care. I remain a nurse, and my profession is dear to me. My experience has taught me the significance of self-care as it facilitates one’s ability to cater to others. Moreover, requesting aid when necessary is also crucial in maintaining efficiency at work.


Role stress and strain management are important if nurses want to self-preserve and ensure optimal practices. Employing self-awareness, supporting systems, appropriate self-care practices, and professional interventions when need be, nurses overcome the challenges posed by their roles to ensure optimal health for themselves and those they serve. Reducing stress and burnout in nurses can be achieved by tackling overwhelming workloads and inadequate control over schedules. Healthcare organizations must prioritize these concerns to create a supportive workplace prioritizing nursing staff’s well-being. Encouraging a healthy balance between professional responsibilities and personal life and granting more autonomy at work could enhance job satisfaction while retaining skilled professionals.


Andisi-Musambi, M. (2023). Physiological impact of shift work on nurses.

Barilla, A. A. (2021). Mindfulness, Deep Breathing, and Body Scan Meditation for Reducing Work-Related Stress and Improving Job Satisfaction among Psychiatric Nurses (Doctoral dissertation, Brandman University).

Elizabeth, W. O., Wori, E. O., & Egbuchu, S. A. (2020). Relationship between work-life balance, emotional intelligence, and job autonomy among nurses in tertiary hospitals in Rivers state. Advance Journal of Education and Social Sciences5(9).

Entus, A. L. (2020). Decreasing nurses’ stress in the emergency room utilizing mindfulness meditation (Doctoral dissertation, Nova Southeastern University).

Ghavidel, F., Fallahi-Khoshknab, M., Molavynejad, S., & Zarea, K. (2019). The role of organizational factors in nurse burnout: Experiences from Iranian nurses working in psychiatric wards. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care8(12), 3893-3899.

Hopwood, R. (2021). Well-being in the face of Covid-19 (Doctoral dissertation, ResearchSpace@ Auckland).

Jiang, Z., Wang, S., Shen, Z., Zhao, X., Wang, F., Chen, Y., Qiao, Y., Wei, T., Dong, P., Ding, S., & Yang, X. (2022). Nurses’ experience of work stress related to COVID-19 regular prevention and control in China: A qualitative study. Journal of Nursing Management30(2), 375-383.

McGovern, G. (2021). Outward Bound Instructors’ Experience of Stress: Storms, Students, and Role Strain. Journal of Experiential Education.

Trinkoff, A. M., Baldwin, C. M., Chasens, E. R., Dunbar-Jacob, J., Geiger-Brown, J., Imes, C. C., … & Tucker, S. J. (2021). CE: Nurses are more exhausted than ever: What should we do about it?. AJN The American Journal of Nursing121(12), 18-28.

Williams, S. G., Fruh, S., Barinas, J. L., & Graves, R. J. (2022). Self-Care in Nurses. Journal of Radiology Nursing41(1), 22-27.


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