Background Nurses’ perceptions of futile care may lead to emotional exhaustion.

Objectives To determine the relationship between critical care nurses’ perceptions of futile care and its effect on burnout.

Methods A descriptive survey design was used with 60 critical care nurses who worked full-time and had a minimum of 1 year of critical care experience at the 2 participating hospitals (350–470 beds). Subjects completed a survey on demographics, the Moral Distress Scale, and the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Six research questions were tested. The results of the following question are presented: Is there a relationship between frequency of moral distress situations involving futile care and emotional exhaustion?

Results A Pearson product moment correlational analysis indicated a significant positive correlation between the score on the emotional exhaustion subscale of the Maslach Burnout Inventory and the score on the frequency subscale of the Moral Distress Scale. Moral distress accounted for 10% of the variance in emotional exhaustion. Demographic variables of age, education, religion, and rotation between the critical care units were significantly related to the major variables.

Conclusions In critical care nurses, the frequency of moral distress situations that are perceived as futile or nonbeneficial to their patients has a significant relationship to the experience of emotional exhaustion, a main component of burnout.

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