Compassion Satisfaction, Burnout, and Secondary Traumatic Stress Among Nursing Staff at an Academic Medical Center: A Cross-Sectional Analysis


Although several studies have recently described compassion satisfaction (CS), burnout (BO), and secondary traumatic stress (STS) in nurses, few to date have examined these issues across nursing specialties. Such examination is needed to inform future nursing-subspecialty tailored interventions.


To examine (1) differences in CS, BO, and STS across nursing specialties and (2) differences associated with demographic, work-related, and behavioral factors among nurses.


A secondary analysis of survey responses from nurses (N = 350) at an academic medical center. Demographic, behavioral, work-related, and professional quality of life variables were analyzed using hierarchical regression analyses.


CS, BO, and STS scores significantly varied across specialties with emergency nurses experiencing significantly elevated rates of BO and STS, and lowest rates of CS; scores were also differentially associated with demographic, work-related, behavioral, and workplace violence variables.


Key differences in CS, BO, and STS by nursing specialty suggests the importance of tailoring BO and STS mitigative interventions. BO and STS risk factors should be assessed in nurses (e.g., behavioral health problems and poor sleep quality) and specialty-specific interventions (e.g., reducing workplace violence exposure in emergency settings) may be considered to improve CS while reducing BO and STS among nurses.

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.

Secondary Traumatic Stress

Secondary traumatic stress is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another.

UK's Center on Trauma & Children has created evidence-based tools to screen for various forms of Secondary Traumatic Stress. Take one of their brief screeners here.

Secondary Traumatic Stress can take numerous forms. Here, we focus on research about compassion fatigue among psychiatric nurses. This phenomenon has emerged as a detrimental consequence of work-related stress among nurses. Compassion fatigue affects the job performance, and emotional and physical health of nurses.