Understanding the impact of transformational leadership on nurse compassion provision through a time-lagged field study : Health Care Management Review

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Understanding the impact of transformational leadership on nurse compassion provision through a time-lagged field study

Larson, Jeffrey D.; Perkins, Benjamin G.; Chawla, Nitya; Ellis, Aleksander P. J.

Author Information
Health Care Management Review 48(3):p 274-281, 7/9 2023. | DOI: 10.1097/HMR.0000000000000374



A large volume of literature identifies positive, rejuvenating benefits associated with giving compassion to others. However, the relationship between giving compassion and feelings of exhaustion remains underexplored. Understanding when giving compassion can potentially lead to feelings of emotional exhaustion is particularly important for nurses who are called upon to provide high levels of compassion to suffering patients in their daily work. We suggest that by engaging in transformational leadership behaviors, frontline supervisors can help nurses realize the positive benefits associated with giving compassion.


The aim of this study was to examine the impact of nurses’ perceptions of transformational leadership offered by their supervisors on the relationship between the levels of compassionate behaviors nurses report engaging in with patients and feelings of emotional exhaustion and job satisfaction.


A time-lagged field survey was conducted across two waves of 112 full-time employed inpatient nurses within the United States.


Providing high levels of compassionate behavior to patients was associated with reduced (increased) perceptions of emotional exhaustion and increased (decreased) job satisfaction when supervisors engaged in higher (lower) levels of transformational leadership.


Transformational leadership serves as an important resource to help caregivers such that nurses feel invigorated and satisfied, as opposed to drained or fatigued, when engaging in high levels of compassionate behaviors toward suffering patients.

Practice Implications 

For nurses to fully reap the established positive benefits associated with providing compassion to patients, frontline supervisors should be encouraged to engage in behaviors reflective of transformational leadership.

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