Exploring nurse leader fatigue: a mixed methods study

Linsey M. Steege, Barbara J. Pinekenstein, Élise Arsenault Knudsen, Jessica G. Rainbow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Aim: To describe hospital nurse leaders’ experiences of fatigue. Background: Fatigue is a critical challenge in nursing. Existing literature focuses on staff nurse fatigue, yet nurse leaders are exposed to high demands that may contribute to fatigue and associated risks to patient, nurse and organisational outcomes. Methods: A mixed method approach comprising semi-structured interviews and the Occupational Fatigue Exhaustion Recovery scale with 21 nurse administrators (10 nurse managers and 11 nurse executives) from hospitals in a Midwestern state. Results: Most nurse leaders experience fatigue; nurse managers reported higher levels of chronic fatigue. Participants identified multiple sources of fatigue including 24 h accountability and intensity of role expectations, and used a combination of wellness, restorative, social support and boundary setting strategies to cope with fatigue. The consequences of nurse leader fatigue include an impact on decision-making, work–life balance and turnover intent. Conclusions: The high prevalence of nurse leader fatigue could impact the turnover intent of nurse administrators and quality of care. Implications for nursing management: This study highlights the significance and consequences of nurse leader fatigue. As health care organisations continue to raise awareness and establish systems to reduce nurse fatigue, policies and programmes must be adapted to address nurse leader fatigue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-286
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Nursing Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • fatigue
  • nurse executive
  • nurse leader
  • nurse managers
  • quality
  • turnover

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management


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