Empathy, Burnout, Demographic Variables and their Relationships in Oncology Nurses

Fariba Taleghani, Elaheh Ashouri, Morteza Saburi


Introduction: Development of nurse–patient empathic communication in the oncology ward is of great importance for the patients to relieve their psychological stress, however, nursing care of cancer patients is accompanied with high stress and burnout. The present study aimed to define the level of empathy and its association with burnout and some demographic characteristics of oncology nurses.

Materials and Methods: This descriptive/correlation study was conducted in a professional cancer treatment center in Isfahan. Through census sampling, 67 oncology nurses were selected. The data collection tools were Jefferson Scale of Nursing Empathy, Maslach Burnout Inventory, and demographic characteristics questionnaire.

 Results: Mean nurses’ empathy and overall burnout scores were 62.28 out of 100 and 38.8 out of 100, respectively. Score of empathy showed an inverse correlation with overall burnout score (r = −0.189, P = 0.04), depersonalization (r = −0.218, P = 0.02), and personal accomplishment (r = −0.265, P = 0.01). Multiple regression test was used to detect which dimension of burnout was a better predictor for the reduction of empathy score. Results showed that the best predictors were lack of personal accomplishment (P = 0.02), depersonalization (P = 0.04), and emotional exhaustion (P = 0.14), respectively. The most influential demographic factor on empathy was work experience (r = 0.304, P = 0.004). One‑way analysis of variance showed that official staff had a higher empathy score (f = 2.39, P = 0.045) and their burnout was lower (f = 2.56, P = 0.04).

 Conclusions: Results showed a negative relationship between empathy and burnout in oncology nurses. Therefore, nursing support from managers to reduce burnout increases empathic behavior of nurses.


Burnout; cancer; empathy; Iran; nurses; oncology nursing; patient–nurse relationship

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