Clinical supervision and burnout: the influence of clinical supervision for community mental health nurses


  • Deborah Edwards MPhil, BSc,

  • Philip Burnard PhD, MSc, RN,

  • Ben Hannigan MA, BA, RN,

  • Linda Cooper MSc, BEd, RN,

  • John Adams MA, RN,

  • Tara Juggessur PhD, LLM, RN,

  • Anne Fothergil PhD, BSc, RN,

  • Dave Coyle MEd, RN

Mrs Deborah Edwards
Room 2.9
Ty Dewi Sant Heath Park
Cardiff Wales
CF14 4XN
Telephone: +29 20 743615


Aims.  The aim of this study was to establish the degree to which clinical supervision might influence levels of reported burnout in community mental health nurses in Wales, UK.

Methods.  The research instruments used were the Maslach Burnout Inventory and the Manchester Clinical Supervision Scale. At the time of the survey 817 community mental health nurses were reported to work within Wales. Two hundred and sixty (32%) community mental heath nurses working in 11 NHS Trusts responded to the survey.

Results.  One hundred and eighty-nine (73%) community mental heath nurses had experience of clinical supervision in their present posts and 105 (40%) in their previous posts. The findings from the Maslach Burnout Inventory indicated high levels of emotional exhaustion for 36%, high levels of depersonalization for 12% and low levels of personal accomplishment for 10% of the community mental heath nurses surveyed. Univariate analysis showed that those community mental heath nurses who were younger, male and who had not experienced six or more sessions of clinical supervision were more likely to report cold negative attitudes towards their clients as indicated by higher scores on the depersonalization subscale of the Maslach Burnout Inventory. One hundred and sixty-six community mental heath nurses had experienced six or more sessions of clinical supervision and had completed the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Higher scores on the Manchester Clinical Supervision Scale were also associated with lower levels of measured burnout, with significant negative correlations between the total Manchester Clinical Supervision Scale score and the emotional exhaustion subscale (r = −0·148, P = 0·050) and the depersonalization subscale (r = −0·220, P = 0·003) of the Maslach Burnout Inventory. These findings suggest that if clinical supervision is effective then community mental heath nurses are likely to report lower levels of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization.

Conclusions.  The findings from this study suggest that if clinical supervision is effective then community mental heath nurses report lower levels of burnout. Further research is required to determine the long-term benefits of implementing clinical supervision and to determine which other factors have an influence on levels of burnout for this group of nurses.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Health service organizations have a responsibility for ensuring that all individual practitioners have access to effective clinical supervision and the Nursing and Midwifery Council could extend the registered nurses personal accountability to include – to seek clinical supervision as and when necessary.