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Burnout and its prevalence among public health nurses in Ireland

02 August 2020
Volume 25 · Issue 8


This paper presents the findings from an analysis of survey data which was collected from public health nurses (N = 136) as part of a larger study with more than 4000 nurses and midwives in Ireland. The purpose of the study was to examine the prevalence of burnout using the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory and to compare relationships between burnout, demographic and work characteristics across this group of nurses. Younger PHNs were most likely to report feeling burnout (68%) compared with those aged 51 or over (47%) who reported the lowest levels. PHNs whose highest level of qualification was a primary degree were least likely to report feeling burnout (31%) compared with those who held a Masters / Doctoral degree (54.5%). PHNs who reported working on a fixed-term full-time contract were most likely to report feeling burnout (70%) compared with those who were on a permanent part-time contract (49%). Quantitative analysis, using both descriptive and inferential statistics, was carried out and the findings show that PHNs reported moderate levels of burnout. The findings also show that burnout among PHNs is strongly correlated with the physical demands placed on individuals during work, having constant time pressures, too much being expected of individuals, the work environment being too demanding and dissatisfaction with the physical conditions.

Public health nurses (PHNs) in Ireland are registered general nurses who have also completed a post-graduate higher diploma in public health nursing at an accredited university. In contrast with community nursing services in the UK and elsewhere, the public health nursing service in Ireland operates as a generalist service providing both public health and wellbeing services (similar to health visitors in the UK) and clinical nursing services (similar to district nurses in the UK) to a wide range of client groups (Hanafin and Dwan O'Reilly, 2015). Providing nursing services in the community is challenging, not least because of the need for complex case management as well as effective and extensive networking and brokering abilities (Leary, 2019a). A number of challenges relating to staffing issues, caseload and workload, communication, discharge planning, lack of clerical support and increased documentation were identified by PHNs in Ireland in a survey carried out by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (2013). These issues are likely to give rise to considerable stress, which, in turn, can result in burnout.

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