The purpose of this study was to obtain a deeper understanding of how nurses experience long lasting stress and burnout. Of central interest were professionalism and especially patient–nurse relations. Open interviews were analysed according to the Grounded Theory methodology. Participants were 10 nurses (age 30–61) from different care institutions. They had experienced long lasting stress and burnout, which led to absence from work for two or more months.
The main core emerging from the data was the powerlessness in influencing the valuation of the work of nurses. It reflects the process of decision-making, in particular in the context of reorganizations that often occur without considering the knowledge and experience of nurses, although decisions are affecting their daily work in a significant way.
The patient–nurse relationship was experienced by the participants as an important part of care. The importance given by nurses to their relationship with patients was not diminished by tiredness, but they did not to have the power to meet patients and secure quality of care. The solution to this situation was to go off sick and leave the work place.