The prevalence of nurse burnout and its association with telomere length pre and during the COVID-19 pandemic Public Deposited

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  • Wei, Holly
    • Other Affiliation: University of Louisville School of Nursing
  • Aucoin, Julia
    • Other Affiliation: University of North Carolina REX Healthcare
  • Kuntapay, Gabrielle R.
    • Other Affiliation: University of North Carolina REX Healthcare
  • Justice, Amber
    • Other Affiliation: University of North Carolina REX Healthcare
  • Jones, Abigail
    • Other Affiliation: Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center
  • Zhang, Chongben
    • Affiliation: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Santos Jr, Hudson P.
    • Affiliation: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Hall, Lynne A.
    • Other Affiliation: University of Louisville School of Nursing
  • Background Burnout is a work-related stress syndrome characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. Nurse burnout is related to nurses’ deteriorating mental health and poorer patient care quality and thus, is a significant concern in healthcare. The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has swept the world and distressed the healthcare systems. Because of the body’s stress mechanism, it is vital to examine the current prevalence of nurse burnout and understand it at a biological level, using an epigenetic biomarker, telomere length. Purpose To determine the prevalence of burnout among nurses in the Peri-Operative and Labor & Delivery settings pre and during the COVID-19 pandemic and to examine the effects of burnout on absolute telomere length. Methods This is a cross-sectional study assessing the prevalence of nurses’ burnout and the relationships between nurses’ burnout and telomere length. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to stop the study during the mid of data collection. Even though the study was not designed to capture changes before and during the pandemic, we analyzed two groups’ data before and during the pandemic. The study took place in a US hospital. Nurses in the hospital’s Operating Room, Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, and Labor & Delivery Unit participated in the study. Maslach Burnout Inventory survey and nurses’ demographics were administered online. Telomere length was measured via finger-prick blood. Results 146 nurses participated in the study, with 120 participants’ blood samples collected. The high-level burnout rate was 70.5%. Correlation analysis did not reveal a direct correlation between nurse burnout and telomere length. However, in a multiple regression analysis, the final model contained the burnout subscale of emotional exhaustion, years as an RN, and work unit’s nursing care quality. There was a low degree of departure from normality of the mean absolute telomere length in the pre-pandemic group and a substantial degree of departure in the during-pandemic group. Conclusions Nurse burnout is a prevalent phenomenon in healthcare, and this study indicates that nurses currently experience high levels of burnout. Nurses’ cellular biomarker, telomere length, is shorter in the group of nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic than before. Appropriate measures should be implemented to decrease nurses’ burnout symptoms and improve nurses’ psychological and physical health. Nurses, especially those younger than 60, report higher burnout symptoms, particularly emotional exhaustion. This study indicates the need for intervention to promote nurses’ health during the pandemic and beyond. If not appropriately managed, nurse burnout may continue to be a significant issue facing the healthcare system.
Date of publication
Resource type
  • Article
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Attribution 4.0 International
Journal title
Journal volume
  • 17
Journal issue
  • 3
Page start
  • e0263603
  • English
  • Publisher
  • 1932-6203

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