• burnout;
  • job satisfaction;
  • nursing shortage;
  • oncology;
  • stress;
  • systematic review


Aim  To establish the best available evidence regarding the relationship between the nursing shortage and nurses' job satisfaction, stress and burnout levels in oncology/haematology settings.

Methods  Electronic databases (CINAHL, Medline, Scopus, ScienceDirect, PsycInfo, PsycArticles, Web of Science, The Cochrane Library, Proquest and Mednar) were searched using a three-step strategy in order to identify published and unpublished studies conducted between 1990 and 2010. Grey literature was excluded in the review. The identified studies were evaluated using standardised critical appraisal instruments from the Joanna Briggs Institute-Meta Analysis of Statistics Assessment and Review Instrument (JBI-MAStARI). A total of seven descriptive and descriptive-correlational studies published in English were included and data were presented in a narrative summary.

Results  Findings revealed a positive bidirectional relationship between the nursing shortage and oncology registered nurses' (RNs') job dissatisfaction, stress and burnout. The extent of the job dissatisfaction, stress and burnout experienced by the oncology RNs and their perception of staffing inadequacy differed according to their demography and work settings. Particularly, nurses who had higher qualifications and positions, who worked full-time and who worked in inpatient settings and non-Magnet hospitals were more likely to attribute staffing inadequacy as one of the main contributing factors for their job dissatisfaction, stress and burnout. This led to a rise in the number of oncology RNs leaving the speciality.

Conclusion  Within the constraints of the study and the few quality papers available, it appears that oncology RNs who worked in substandard staffing units often express job dissatisfaction, stress and burnout, which prompt them to seek new employment out of the oncology specialty. This entails a pressing need for organisations to ensure sufficient staffing in oncology/haematology settings, in order to ensure that quality patient care is provided. Limited studies that examine the relationship between the nursing shortage and oncology RNs' stress and burnout have been conducted. Also, no studies in the Asian context have previously been conducted.

Implications for practice  Organizations need to customize their strategies for the recruitment and retention of oncology nurses. The strategies should take into consideration the specific demographic characteristics of oncology nurses or those of work settings that are experiencing staffing inadequacy and negative nursing outcomes. The strategies should also aim to replicate features of other institutions that are attractive to oncology nurses, and also include training that help oncology nurses better manage their emotions.

Implications for research  Future research needs to examine the relationship between the nursing shortage and oncology nurses' job satisfaction, stress and burnout in bone marrow transplant units, paediatric oncology settings and Asian oncology settings. The characteristics of oncology nurses or workplaces that are more likely to experience negative nursing outcomes due the nursing shortage should also be identified.