Why Emotions Matter

Why Emotions Matter: Age, Agitation, and Burnout Among Registered Nurses
Rebecca J. Erickson, PhD
Wendy J. C. Grove, PhD
Knowledge of the emotional demands facing today’s nurses is critical for explaining how work stressors translate into burnout and turnover. Following a brief discussion of how the experience of burnout relates to the nursing shortage, we examine the scope of nurses’ emotional experiences and demonstrate that these experiences may be particularly consequential for understanding the higher levels of burnout reported by younger nurses. Using survey data collected from 843 direct care hospital nurses, we show that, compared to their older counterparts, nurses under 30 years of age were more likely to experience feelings of agitation and less likely to engage in techniques to manage these feelings. Younger nurses also reported significantly higher rates of burnout and this was particularly true among those experiencing higher levels of agitation at work. We conclude by suggesting the need for increased awareness of the emotional demands facing today’s nursing workforce as well as the need for more experienced nurses to serve as emotional mentors to those just entering the profession.
Citation: Erickson, R., Grove, W., (October 29, 2007). "Why Emotions Matter: Age, Agitation, and Burnout Among Registered Nurses" Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Vol. 13, No. 1.
DOI: 10.3912/OJIN.Vol13No01PPT01
Key words: anger, age, burnout, care work, emotions, emotional labor, emotion management, nursing shortage, nurse well-being, nursing work environment
“You can recruit till the cows come home, and that’s what we see nurse recruiters in hospitals doing. Pull out all the stops, do the sign-on bonuses, basically bribe them in some way to get them in the door. But until you can stop the bleeding, they’re coming in the front door and leaving out the back door” (Bozell, 2004).
In 2002, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that the...