Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Chwalisz, Kathleen


AN ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION OF GREGORY STEINSDOERFER, for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in PSYCHOLOGY, presented on December, 12, 2014, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: BURNED OUT FROM HEALING THE BROKEN HEARTED: THE EXPERIENCES OF CARDIAC NURSES MAJOR PROFESSOR: Kathleen Chwalisz, Ph.D. It has been well documented that prevalence of cardiovascular disease has become a major global healthcare problem. In the United States, healthcare expenditures have dramatically increased as more and more people are requiring cardiovascular treatment. Treatment outcomes (e.g., mortality rates, readmission rates) for cardiovascular disease related illnesses can vary drastically from one hospital to another. Researchers have recently attempted to understand why these drastic differences in performance exist from hospital to hospital. It has been suggested, that one important avenue for improving cardiovascular care is to improve hospital staff performance. Of all hospital staff, nurses spend the most time working directly with cardiac patients and their families. Nurses also frequently report high levels of occupational stress, burnout, and turnover rates. This study was a qualitative investigation of the lived work experiences of cardiac nurses. Qualitative research methodology was utilized as it provided the best opportunity to understand the individual experiences of nurses working with cardiac patients. In-person, semi-structured individual interviews were conducted with seven cardiac nurses. Through the analysis process, seven major categories and 24 sub-level categories emerged. More specifically, grounded theory methodology (Strauss & Corbin, 1998) was used to analyze the interview data. Participants described their experience working with cardiac patients as complex and multidimensional. The core theme of this study, revolved around the concept of cardiac nurses serving as bridges for their patients. Participants described feeling stuck in the middle between having a strong desire to help their patients improve their health, but also working with a high percentage of unmotivated patients who were not accepting of this help. This study also identified the unique stressors of working in a cardiac environment, and the resources that were utilized to help decrease or prevent symptoms of burnout.




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