DNP Scholarly Projects


Burnout and compassion fatigue among critical care nurses can affect individual patients, healthcare systems, and nurses’ health and wellbeing. Both burnout and compassion fatigue have been well described in the literature as key elements that contribute to a nurse’s overall professional quality of life, and can be directly influenced by the health of the nurses’ work environment. The AACN defined six standards of a healthy work environment, which include skilled communication, true collaboration, effective decision-making, appropriate staffing, meaningful recognition, and authentic leadership. The purpose of this project is to explore which of the AACN Healthy Work Environment standards have the strongest impact on professional quality of life. This project was an exploratory, cross-sectional survey design completed by critical care nurses at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. The ProQOL questionnaire and AACN Healthy Work Environment Assessment tool were used to measure professional quality of life and adherence to the AACN Healthy Work Environment standards. The survey was created through Qualtrics and distributed through employer-based emails. The mean score for compassion satisfaction was average at 52.05, burnout was closer to high at 55.3, and STS was high at 63. The composite average of all six AACN Healthy Work Environment standards was good at 3.5. A multiple regression analysis revealed true collaboration, effective decision-making, and authentic leadership as significant predictors of compassion satisfaction. Authentic leadership was the only predictor of burnout. Appropriate staffing, meaningful recognition, and authentic leadership were predictors of secondary traumatic stress. Authentic leadership was the strongest predictor of compassion satisfaction, burnout, and STS. Therefore, improving leadership should be a priority in ICUs that wish to improve nurses’ professional quality of life



First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Morse

Scholarly Project Team Member

Dr. Erin Shankel

Scholarly Project Team Member

Mrs. Susan Marti


Nursing, School of


Health Sciences & Nursing, Gordon E. Inman College of

Document Type

Scholarly Project


Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Degree Level


Degree Grantor

Belmont University


Professional Quality of Life, Healthy Work Environment, Critical Care