• burnout;
  • communication;
  • emotion;
  • empathy;
  • health care;
  • nursing;
  • stress

Emotional contagion, empathic concern and communicative responsiveness as variables affecting nurses’ stress and occupational commitment

Based on data gathered from registered nurses at two hospitals, this research examined the extent to which empathy variables contributed to nursing stress and occupational commitment. The empathy variables examined were emotional contagion (i.e. sharing the emotions of patients), empathic concern (i.e. being concerned for patients) and communicative effectiveness (i.e. effectively communicating with patients and their families). Nursing stress was explored through the variables of depersonalization, reduced personal accomplishment and emotional exhaustion. Multiple regression analyses revealed that the combination of the three emotional communication variables explained significant proportions of the variance in all three of the stress variables, as well as occupational commitment. The analyses further revealed that a lack of empathic concern and poor communicative responsiveness accounted for significant proportions of the variance in depersonalization. Lack of empathic concern, poor communicative responsiveness and high emotional contagion significantly contributed to reduced personal accomplishment. Emotional contagion explained a significant proportion of the variance in emotional exhaustion. Emotional contagion also significantly reduced occupational commitment. The findings are discussed in terms of nursing education and administration.