• critical care;
  • intensive care;
  • nurses;
  • nursing;
  • turnover intention;
  • workforce


Aim.  To provide insight into the individual and contextual factors that are related to intensive care nursing staff perceptions of work pressure and turnover.

Background.  Hospitals are facing a shortage of intensive care nurses that will only become more pressing owing to demographic changes. Nurses’ sickness absence and turnover are considered important threats to the supply of intensive care.

Design.  A quantitative, cross-sectional research design was used that was preceded by a qualitative, explorative study.

Method.  First, interviews and observations took place to better understand intensive care nurses’ work situation. Next, quantitative data were obtained in 2010 from 461 Dutch qualified intensive care nurses who completed a questionnaire.

Findings.  The outcomes of multiple regression analyses indicated that nurses’ perceptions of work pressure were predicted by emotional demands, physical demands, threats from patients’ relatives, social support and autonomy. Turnover intention was predicted by age, ability to deal with night shifts, social support and development opportunities.

Conclusions.  Given the importance of the availability of staff to secure intensive care, this study indicates that hospitals should pay more attention to intensive care nurses’ work situation. Decreasing emotional and physical demands and increasing nurses’ development opportunities are some of the measures hospitals can take to create a work environment that better accommodates the needs of their intensive care nursing staff.