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Theorizing the Concept of Burnout in Nursing

Theorizing the Concept of Burnout in Nursing


F. BerylPilkington RN; PhD York University, bpilking@yorku.ca A ccording to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, burnout means “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration” (Mish, 1999, p. 153). Since the 1970s, the term has been widely used in both the scientific and popular literature. Burnout has been studied extensively in occupational sectors including teaching, social services, medicine, mental health, law enforcement, and nursing (Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001). A cursory search of the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature database produced over 1100 items with burnout in the title. And yet, the nursing literature has generally relied upon the psycho- logical literature for conceptualizations of burnout. Thus, there has been little, if any, theorizing about the concept of burnout through the lens of nursing theory. The authors in this column have begun to address this gap by positing a conceptualization of burnout from the perspective of the Neuman systems model (NSM). The column that follows is noteworthy on several fronts. Firstly, it presents a clarification of the notion of the core response in the NSM, in response to a call for such clarification by a recent think tank
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