[ANSWERED 2023] What happens to the nurse when role stress or strain becomes too overwhelming? What happens to patient care? How is this related to possible ethic and legal issues?

Written By: Dan Palmer, RN

What happens to the nurse when role stress or strain becomes too overwhelming? What

What happens to the nurse when role stress or strain becomes too overwhelming? What happens to patient care? How is this related to possible ethic and legal issues?


Role Strain and Burnout in Nursing

Write a 1000-1500 word essay addressing each of the following points/questions. Be sure to completely answer all the questions for each bullet point. There should be three main sections, one for each bullet below. Separate each section in your paper with a clear heading that allows your professor to know which bullet you are addressing in that section of your paper.

Support your ideas with at least three (3) sources using citations in your essay. Make sure to cite using the APA writing style for the essay. The cover page and reference page in correct APA do not count towards the minimum word amount. Review the rubric criteria for this assignment.

  • What happens to the nurse when role stress or strain becomes too overwhelming? What happens to patient care? How is this related to possible ethic and legal issues? Discuss how nurses can manage or reduce role stress and role strain.
  • Explain two issues that lead to nurse burnout and discuss a solution for each issue.
  • Think of an experience in your nursing profession where you either felt strain or burnout and how you overcame this event. (Since this is personal experience, you can use first person narration for this portion of your essay.)

Assignment Expectations:

Length: 1000-1500 words; answers must thoroughly address the questions in a clear, concise manner.

Structure: Include a title page and reference page in APA format. These do not count towards the minimum word count for this assignment. Your essay must include an introduction and a conclusion.

References: Use appropriate APA style in-text citations and references for all resources utilized to answer the questions. A minimum of three (3) scholarly sources are required.

Rubric: This assignment uses a rubric for scoring. Please review it as part of your assignment preparation and again prior to submission to ensure you have addressed its criteria at the highest level.

Format: Save your assignment as a Microsoft Word document (.doc or .docx) or a PDF document (.pdf)

File name: Name your saved file according to your first initial, last name, and the assignment number (for example, “RHall Assignment 1.docx”)


  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). (2018). Nursing faculty shortage.
  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). (2018). About the nursing shortage.
  • Carte, N. S., & Williams, C. (2017). Role strain among male RNs in the critical care setting: Perceptions of an unfriendly workplace. Intensive & Critical Care Nursing, 43, 81-86.
  • Iel Marciano de, M. F., & de Almeida, R. J. (2016). Occupational stress at work in nursing in brazil: An integrative review. Revista Brasileira Em Promocao Da Saude, 29(3), 447-454.
  • Johnston, D. W., Jones, M. C., Charles, K., Mccann, S. K., & Mckee, L. (2013). Stress in nurses: Stress-related affect and its determinants examined over the nursing day. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 45(3), 348-56.

Expert Answer and Explanation

Role Strain and Burnout in Nursing

Nurse burnout is the physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that is caused by some occupational elements of the nurse. When a parent is working, they have to combine the role of family and work, and since each of these have associated problems, they often result to burnout. It is common for individuals to get stressed at work, but when it happens subsequently for long periods of time and they tend to get used to it, there is emotional exhaustion (Fida, Laschinger, & Leiter, 2018).

The work program of most nurses and nurse students is intense and often has elements of burnouts. However, there are several solutions to this burnout, and these solutions are aimed at reducing the amount of work-related stress for consistent periods of time. Whereas it is common to assume that nurse burnout is one of the defining characteristics of the nursing profession, application of some of the solutions to the problem can help in resolving most of the burnout cases and preventing others from occurring.

Effects of Overwhelming Role Stress

Effects on Patient Care

Nurse burnout has numerous adverse effects on patient care. One of the direct effects of nurse burnout is that providers have to cut off the hours they spend on practice, or enter early retirement. Given the fact that there is still a shortage of nurses, it is evident that a further reduction of practice hours or introduction of early retirement for nurses has the first direct effect as lowering the nurse patient ratio (White et al., 2019).

Despite this fact, most therapists give the first recommendation to patients who experience burnout as taking nonclinical jobs. Leaving the clinical workforce not only leads to the strain of nurses, and yet the same energy is not used in recruiting new nurses.

Relation to possible Ethic and Legal Issues

One of the leading causes of mental and emotional burnout is when providers are overwhelmed with ethical decisions that affect patients. Moral distress situations often make the nurses feel that they are not able to perform work according to the professional values and practice. Breakdowns of communication and introduction of organizational structures and hierarchies is one of the ways of solving some of these ethical issues.

However, it should be understood that a change in institutional policies, which were designed using evidence-based practice could only lead to worse outcomes on ethics (Woodhead, Northrop, & Edelstein, 2016). For example, when nurses are allowed to withhold patient care in a facility until their assistant returns to work from a venture that is not work-related, it is only likely that an even larger ethical issue could emerge from the situation.

How Nurses can Reduce Role Stress and Role Strain

The only sure way of reducing role stress and role strain among nurses is assessing the root cause of the problem and addressing it permanently. In most of the cases, however, nurse leaders have superficial solutions to the problem, such as giving the affected nurse a one week break from work. This means that when the nurse comes back and faces the same triggers to burnout, they process could repeat itself again.

Nurse leaders are also required to find active ways of identifying burnout among physicians (Fong, 2016). They should treat it as a serious problem and respond vigorously towards improving it. Improving should also be based on addressing nurse specific emotional and mental needs, and also a constant evaluation of their well-being.

Issues that Lead to Nurse Burnout and Solutions

Long Shifts

Having long shifts is by far the leading cause of nurse burnouts in most of the situations. The human body is designed to concentrate on one field for a certain amount of time per day, after which it is required to break to do something else. Most people who work sixteen hours a day manage to do it efficiently by having at least two jobs. When one jumps from one exercise to another, it becomes easier to give the mind an opportunity to rest. Nurses who have too long shifts do not have this opportunity to rest their minds.

The solution to the issue of long shifts is encouraging nurse leaders to issue short work schedule cycles to the nurses. In most of the cases, the nurses are limited in number, and so they should employ using multiple cycles per week for the nurses. However, they should also put in system a proper structure of hand-off communication, lest the burnout problem would still persist,


Nurse burnout has causative agents that appear direct opposite to stress. In most of the situations, stress results from over-engagement of nurses, but burnout results from disengagement (Chang et al., 2017). Burnout often comes from when nurses’ emotional needs are not addressed, and this kind of detachment leads to an increase in dull emotions.

The solution to disengagement is encouraging motivation and reducing events that could lead to helplessness. The notion that ‘every day is a bad day’ should never be heard from nurses, as this is one of the indicators of the disengagement they feel from work (Chang et al., 2017). Where specific units or nurses appear disengaged, nurse leaders should organized for personalized care to allow them to go back to business.

Personal Experience of Burnout

The Experience

During my practice as a nurse intern, I worked at a home care facility where I monitored ageing patients, working out their prescriptions and performing several other roles such as helping them with the urine catheter removal and insertion. One of my colleagues, who was a more experienced nurse, helped me to understand every concept of work, and served as my mentor and preceptor. With her, I enjoyed offering services, and I looked forward to work.

After six months of work, the facility opened another branch in a different location, and my preceptor had to move there. I was given a new preceptor who was rather unfriendly to work with. He gave me most of the work to do and insisted that that was the only way I could learn. As a result, I experienced a lot of stress in the workplace, to a point of almost quitting. Later on, I learnt that what I had was burnout.

How I overcame the Event

I did not have an immediate solution to the event. However, after some time, I talked to another colleague telling her that I was considering to try out practice in a different location. She immediately recognized my problem and talked to the nurse leader about it, who immediately summoned the nurse preceptor for a ‘chat.’ I thought life would be tougher in the unit after reporting him but since then, he treated me fairly and he even became one of my best friends.


The issue of nurse burnout is common for most nurses who are directly involved in patient care. Among the common causes of burnout is disengagement from the care concerns, which affects wellness. Having long shifts also leads to the occurrence of burnouts among nurses. The effects on patient care are detrimental, as most nurses who experience burnout no longer have the chance to practice efficient care to their patients.

When nurses encounter burnout, they often leave the profession or seek early retirement, leading to even lower nurse to patient ratios, and worse health outcomes. Among the solutions to burnout is addressing the root causes of the burnout, and reducing things that could lead to role strain.


Chang, H. Y., Shyu, Y. I. L., Wong, M. K., Chu, T. L., Lo, Y. Y., & Teng, C. I. (2017). How does burnout impact the three components of nursing professional commitment? Scandinavian journal of caring sciences31(4), 1003-1011. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/scs.12425

Fida, R., Laschinger, H. K. S., & Leiter, M. P. (2018). The protective role of self-efficacy against workplace incivility and burnout in nursing: A time-lagged study. Health care management review43(1), 21-29. Doi: 10.1097/HMR.0000000000000126

Fong, C. M. (2016). Role overload, social support, and burnout among nursing educators. Journal of Nursing Education29(3), 102-108. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3928/01484834-19900301-07

White, E. M., Aiken, L. H., Sloane, D. M., & McHugh, M. D. (2019). Nursing home work environment, care quality, registered nurse burnout and job dissatisfaction. Geriatric Nursing. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gerinurse.2019.08.007

Woodhead, E. L., Northrop, L., & Edelstein, B. (2016). Stress, social support, and burnout among long-term care nursing staff. Journal of applied gerontology35(1), 84-105. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/0733464814542465

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What happens to the nurse when role stress or strain becomes too overwhelming? What happens to patient care? How is this related to possible ethic and legal issues?

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