Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Nurse Leader Burnout, Satisfaction, and Work-Life Balance

Kelly, Lesly A. PhD, RN, FAAN; Lefton, Cindy PhD, RN, CPXP; Fischer, Shelly A. PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE

JONA: The Journal of Nursing Administration: September 2019 - Volume 49 - Issue 9 - p 404–410
doi: 10.1097/NNA.0000000000000784

OBJECTIVE To examine and report burnout, secondary trauma, and compassion satisfaction in acute care nurse leaders through a large mixed-methods research study.

BACKGROUND Although nurse leaders are removed from daily patient care activities, the pervasive challenges in the work environment create conditions for professional burnout. Nurse leaders must garner compassion satisfaction from different sources, including peer and staff interactions.

METHODS The Professional Quality of Life scale was given to nurse leaders at 29 hospitals in 1 health system. Sixteen leaders from 2 hospitals participated in qualitative interviews.

RESULTS Six hundred seventy-two nurse leaders from 29 hospitals reported similar levels of burnout across frontline, midlevel, and director-level leadership. Directors demonstrated higher levels of compassion satisfaction and lower levels of work-life balance. Four themes emerged representing areas of professional life that potentiate and alleviate compassion fatigue.

CONCLUSIONS All levels of nurse leaders must address the risk of burnout and can do so through individual and organizational resiliency strategies.

Author Affiliations: Associate Clinical Professor, Arizona State University and Nurse Scientist, Dignity Health (Dr Kelly), Phoenix, Arizona; Vice President, Organizational Consulting, Psychological Associates and Waiting Room Nurse, Emergency Department, Barnes Jewish Medical Center (Dr Lefton), St. Louis, Missouri; and Regional Director of Professional Practice, Banner Health System (Dr Fischer), Greeley, Colorado.

This study was funded in part by the American Organization of Nurse Executives small grants program.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Correspondence: Dr Kelly, College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Arizona State University, 500 N 3rd St, Phoenix, AZ 85004 (

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal’s Web site (

Online date: August 19, 2019

Copyright © 2019 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.