Factors associated with Compassion Satisfaction, Burnout, and Secondary Traumatic Stress Among Chinese Nurses in Tertiary Hospitals: A Cross Sectional Study


Compassion fatigue is a work-related professional hazard acquired when providing healthcare for patients. This hazard can lead to physical and mental health problems for nurses and may also affect the nursing care quality for patients. However, studies on Chinese nurses’ compassion fatigue are scarce, especially large sampled, multi-center empirical research.


The goal of this study was to assess the prevalence of compassion fatigue among Chinese nurses, and to explore the factors associated with compassion satisfaction, burnout and second traumatic stress.


A cross-sectional design with a convenience sample.


Participants were recruited from 11 tertiary hospitals in western (Chengdu, Chongqing), eastern (Hefei), southern (Shenzhen) and central China (Wuhan, Huangshi).


A total of 1044 registered nurses from different nursing departments were surveyed.


Demographic, work-related information, lifestyle questionnaire and the Professional Quality of Life Scale were used in this study. Descriptive statistics, t-tests, one-way analysis of variance, and Pearson or Spearman's correlation analyses were used to compare the differences and examine the relationships between participants’ demographic and work-related variables and compassion satisfaction, burnout and secondary traumatic stress. Multiple linear regression models were performed to identify salient variables associated with compassion satisfaction, burnout and secondary traumatic stress from among demographic and work-related factors.


The mean scores for the dimensions of compassion satisfaction, burnout and secondary traumatic stress were 32.63±6.46, 27.36±5.29, and 26.88±5.13, respectively. The age of 36 or higher, being married, higher job satisfaction, good sleep quality and regular exercise were positively associated with compassion satisfaction, while smoking was a negative factor; these five factors explained 25.7% of the total variance. The average number of hours worked per day was a positive factor for burnout, while being married/member of an unmarried couple, job satisfaction, sleep hours per day and sleep quality were negative factors of burnout, explaining 38.8% of the total variance. In addition, we also found that four factors, poor sleep quality, low job satisfaction, more work hours, and second-hand smoke exposure were related to secondary traumatic stress, explaining 9% of the variance.


Our findings reveal a serious phenomenon of the poor professional quality of life among Chinese nurses. The results may provide clues to help nursing managers identify nurses’ vulnerability to compassion fatigue and implement targeted strategies to reduce nurses’ burnout and secondary traumatic stress, while supporting compassion satisfaction.