Trait Negative Affectivity: A Predictor of Burnout and Secondary Traumatic Stress in Nurses in WA

Thursday, 24 July 2014: 3:15 PM

Desley G. Hegney, RN, BA (Hons), PhD1
Mark Craigie, BSc (Psychology), PhD1
David Hemsworth, PhD, MBA, BA, BAS, CET2
Karen Francis, PhD, MEd, RN3
Vicki Drury, RN, CertOpthNsg, BHlthSc, CertMensHlth, GradCertPsychNsgPrac, MSN, PhD4
Samar Aoun, BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD1
(1)School of Nursing and Midwifery, Curtin University, Perth, Australia
(2)School of Business and School of Nursing, Nipissing University, North Bay, ON, Canada
(3)Head of School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia
(4)Educare Consulting, Educare Consulting, Bunbury, Australia

Purpose:  The aim was to ascertain the relationship between the constructs of trait negative affectivity (TNA), depression, state anxiety, stress, compassion fatigue and compassion satisfaction.


 In 2013 an on-line self-report study was conducted. The survey contained demographic information and the Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL), the DASS21 and the Spielberger Trait Anxiety Scale. The study included all nurses employed part or full time in an acute tertiary hospital in Perth. 


299 of 1292 nurses provided useable data. Approximately 12% of nurses had stress levels in the moderate, severe to extreme range and 15% of nurses had anxiety and depression levels (measured by DASS 21) in the moderate, severe to extreme range.  Approximately 11% of nurses had an ‘at risk’ profile and 8% had a ‘very distressed profile’ which indicated high secondary traumatic stress and/or burnout on the ProQOL tool. Forty nurses (14.65%) had a TNA score in the elevated range.   Higher TNA was strongly associated with higher burnout and secondary traumatic stress and lower compassion satisfaction.  The association observed between TNA, burnout and secondary traumatic stress was independent of current negative mood symptoms.


The personal variable of TNA is an important correlate of compassion fatigue in nurses, and therefore a worthy target for interventions wishing to build resilience in nurses. Compassion satisfaction is also a worthy of further investigation in alleviating burnout, but does not appear relevant to secondary traumatic stress.