Publication date: Oct 01, 2023
This study investigated the phenomenon of nurse loneliness as a potential contributor to burnout. Nurse wellbeing is critical for safe and efficient healthcare delivery. However, evidence indicates nurses’ wellbeing is at risk. The levels of burnout, the most commonly measured symptom of suboptimal wellbeing, are rising and may relate to a largely unexplored phenomenon: loneliness. A mixed-methods approach was used to investigate burnout and loneliness in direct-care nurses in four diverse hospitals in the midwestern and southeastern United States. Burnout and loneliness were measured, prevalence was estimated, and correlation was examined. Interpretive descriptive inquiry and analysis was used to develop a richer understanding of nurse loneliness in the context of burnout. While this study did not explicitly explore the impact of the global pandemic, data was collected in late 2021 and early 2022, during the Delta variant wave. In the study population (n = 117), rates of burnout are high and positively correlate with loneliness. Qualitative interviews (n = 11) revealed that nurses feel unseen, emotionally detached from their work, and dehumanized. However, social connection with peers is protective and nurses still report a strong sense of devotion to the profession and solidarity with peers. This study offers insight into nurse loneliness, highlighting the importance of social connectedness to improve nurse wellbeing.