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

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 of 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 were studied. Moreover, the usefulness of ambulatory skin conductance assessments in detecting arousal related to burnout symptoms was studied.

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 emotional intelligence, 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, 10 September 2018