Burnout symptoms in forensic psychiatric nurses and their associations with personality, emotional intelligence and client aggression: A cross‐sectional study [2018]

What is known on the subject?
Client aggression in forensic psychiatry is associated with burnout symptoms in nursing staff. It is unclear what mechanisms contribute to this relationship.
The type and severity of aggression might be of importance in the association between client aggression and burnout symptoms, but also the personality characteristics and emotional intelligence of nursing staff.
It is unknown whether wearable devices that measure arousal can be used to detect chronic stress and burnout symptoms.

What does this paper add to existing knowledge?
Especially, physical aggression as experienced by nursing staff is associated with staff’s burnout symptoms (e.g., emotional exhaustion and depersonalization). Further research on the aggression questionnaire is necessary.
The stress management skill of nursing staff is an important factor to consider in the association between burnout symptoms and client aggression.
The wearable device was not useful for detecting burnout symptoms.

What are the implications for practice?
Nursing staff who experience (physical) aggression should be carefully monitored and should receive social support from their management to aid their well‐being. Contrary to intuition, nurses who reported a higher number of stress management skills might have to be monitored more closely if necessary.

Aggressive behaviour of forensic clients is associated with burnout symptoms in nursing staff. The role of staff characteristics as moderators is unclear.

We explored the association between type and severity of aggressive behaviour as experienced by nursing staff and staff’s burnout symptoms. In addition, the moderating roles of personality characteristics and emotional intelligence (EI) were studied. Moreover, the usefulness of ambulatory skin conductance assessments in detecting arousal related to burnout symptoms was studied.

A total of 114 forensic nursing staff members filled out questionnaires and wore an ambulatory device.

Experiencing physical aggression was positively associated with staff’s burnout symptoms. Stress management skills, a subscale of EI, but not personality, moderated this relationship. Skin conductance was not associated with burnout symptoms. Remarkably, the association between aggression and burnout symptoms was highest for staff reporting a higher number of stress management skills.

Longitudinal research is necessary to establish causality between client aggression and staff burnout symptoms. In addition, further research is necessary on the validity of the aggression measure used in the current study.

Implication for practice
Nursing staff who experience physical aggression frequently should receive social support for this, and staff who report high stress management skills should be monitored more carefully after having been confronted with aggression.

Peter de Looff Henk Nijman Robert Didden Petri Embregts

Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, Volume 25, Issue 8, October 2018