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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Burnout in health-care professionals during reorganizations and downsizing. A cohort study in nurses

Kirsten Nordang12, Marie-Louise Hall-Lord23 and Per G Farup14*

Author Affiliations

1 Dept. of Medicine, Innlandet Hospital Trust, Gjøvik, Norway

2 Faculty of Health, Care and Nursing, Gjøvik University College, Gjøvik, Norway

3 Dept. of Nursing, Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden

4 Unit for Applied Clinical Research, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

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BMC Nursing 2010, 9:8  doi:10.1186/1472-6955-9-8

Published: 4 June 2010



Burnout is a psychological reaction triggered by interaction between personal characteristics and stress factors. Reorganizations and downsizing with increased workload imply stress for health-care professionals. This is a study of burnout in nurses during a period with two comprehensive reorganizations.


In this quasi-experimental retrospective cohort study, burnout was assessed in nurses with long work experience in three surveys during a 30 months' period with two comprehensive reorganizations and downsizing of a hospital unit with mostly seriously ill patients with cancer. Burnout was measured with Bergen Burnout Indicator (BBI) at each survey, and "Sense of Coherence" (SOC) with Antonovsky's questionnaire at the last survey.


One man and 45 women aged 30 to 65 years were invited to the surveys. There was a significant increase in burnout during the study period, the mean increase in BBI-score was 12.5 pr year (p < 0.001). The proportion of satisfied nurses at the first and last survey were 84% and 35% respectively, and the proportions with burnout were 0% and 29% respectively (p < 0.001). Except for auxiliary nurses with experience from the medical department, all subgroups experienced a significant increase in BBI. Burnout was associated with low SOC (p < 0.001, r square 0.33).


There was a significant development of burnout in a group of nurses during a period with two reorganizations and downsizing. Burnout was associated with low SOC. Working with seriously ill patients with cancer has probably made the nurses exceptionally vulnerable to the stress and workload related to the reorganizations.