Aim To illuminate meanings of being a supervisor for care providers suffering from burnout: from initial signs to recuperation.
Background Supervisors in health care, i.e. supervisors with first-line responsibilities for a work unit, are exposed to heavy demands, especially in times of downsizing and restructuring of the healthcare system. When care providers show signs of developing burnout, these demands are even greater.
Methods Interviews with 12 supervisors in health care were interpreted using a phenomenological-hermeneutic method.
Results Being a supervisor when someone in the work team shows signs of burnout means struggling to help them to continue working. In this predicament and being responsible for the unit, the supervisors are torn between focusing on relations and on production. When the care provider reports sick, they are left with feelings of hopelessness and self-blame.
Conclusions and implications for nursing management Supervisors face almost unmanageable strain, caught between conflicting demands. It seems important that supervisors are offered opportunities to share their feelings about this predicament as well as gaining increased knowledge about burnout. This is important if the supervisors are to give proper support, but it will also help to turn supervisory failure into development and to protect the health of the supervisors.