Nursing Leadership

Nursing Leadership 34(1) March 2021 : 7-19.doi:10.12927/cjnl.2021.26459
Lessons in Crisis Leadership

COVID-19-Related Occupational Burnout and Moral Distress among Nurses: A Rapid Scoping Review

Abi Sriharan, Keri J. West, Joan Almost and Aden Hamza


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic is placing unprecedented pressure on a nursing workforce that is already under considerable mental strain due to an overloaded system. Convergent evidence from the current and previous pandemics indicates that nurses experience the highest levels of psychological distress compared with other health professionals. Nurse leaders face particular challenges in mitigating risk and supporting nursing staff to negotiate moral distress and fatigue during large-scale, sustained crises. Synthesizing the burgeoning literature on COVID-19-related burnout and moral distress faced by nurses and identifying effective interventions to reduce poor mental health outcomes will enable nurse leaders to support the resilience of their teams.

Aim: This paper aims to (1) synthesize existing literature on COVID-19-related burnout and moral distress among nurses and (2) identify recommendations for nurse leaders to support the psychological needs of nursing staff.

Methods: Comprehensive searches were conducted in Medline, Embase and PsycINFO (via Ovid); CINAHL (via EBSCOHost); and ERIC (via ProQUEST). The rapid review was completed in accordance with the World Health Organization Rapid Review Guide.

Key Findings: Thematic analysis of selected studies suggests that nurses are at an increased risk for stress, burnout and depression during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Younger female nurses with less clinical experience are more vulnerable to adverse mental health outcomes.



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