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PRACTICE COMMENT

''Caring for staff will allow them to provide good care''

  • 12 Comments

What causes doctors and nurses stress? I investigated this with a survey as part of my master’s degree and, at times, I was shocked by the responses

In the current climate, it is perhaps unsurprising that 60% of nurses and 72% of doctors said they were extremely stressed at work. But the analysis brought me closer to what was causing this stress.

Most responses were from junior nurses. Time and time again participants nominated paperwork as one of the main factors. Nurses said they were stressed by government targets, management pressure, lack of time for adequate care of patients, increasing bureaucratic and regulatory procedures, low staff numbers and a poor skill mix. It was worrying to read the answers from nurses just starting out.

Has their stress increased? It has, according to comments such as these: “Stress has increased over the years due to a colossal amount of paperwork set up by the trust/government. Therefore less [sic] staff to do actual patient care.”

Less than a quarter of the staff I studied were aware of any workplace initiative to help them deal with stress, and the majority of them had developed their own coping mechanisms. Despite this, I read page after page of newly qualified nurses crying out for help and support to cope with all the added pressure. These staff (who - according to the press - lack compassion) continue coming to work every day, staying late most of the time, not having breaks and going home shattered and in tears without any thanks. One nurse commented: “How about acknowledgment and praise from directorates and upper management that nursing staff and [healthcare assistants] do their best - in a difficult, high-pressured job. Rather than chastising us for not being able to always reach ridiculously set targets.”

I found nurses who are passionate about their jobs and desperate to deliver high-quality care - but are prevented from doing so because of pressure from higher up the chain of command.

Most headlines in the press suggest that nurses these days have no care and compassion skills and need to be taught how to be compassionate. However, it is evident that if nurses were given some care and compassion themselves, plus the time to deliver care, they could fulfil their often desperate ambition to deliver high-quality compassionate care to everyone.

In my opinion the findings of this study could likely be replicated in any hospital within England and probably the UK. How sad that in the age of phenomenal advances in medical technology and treatment staff are unable to do the one thing they are desperate to do: provide essential care. What they are condemned for lacking in the national press is precisely the type of care they want to provide more than anything. Most hospital staff don’t need lessons in compassion, they need to be given the opportunity to carry out the jobs they were trained and want to do. Maybe then some of the stress might be reduced? So the question is who’s caring for the carers?

Christine Jones is clinical nurse specialist.

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  • 12 Comments

Readers' comments (12)

  • michael stone

    I can't argue with the claims, but I think the fundamental question arise from this:

    'they need to be given the opportunity to carry out the jobs they were trained and want to do'

    and the solution is how are staff to be given the opportunity to 'fulfil their often desperate ambition to deliver high-quality compassionate care to everyone.'

    I'm in favour of reducing staff stress levels - but I think the cause of that is what needs to be tackled. Cure the illness, don't just mask the symptoms.

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  • It's called institutional bullying.

    Nurses are frequently treated no better than chimney-sweeping children in this country.

    It will only stop when nurses and their unions stop allowing themselves to be victimised, abused and exploited instead of moaning and complaining.

    Trusts don't like this - I know, I'm at the tail end of filing grievances against actions which have affected patient safety and my health.

    Funny they are now falling over themselves to give me what I've asked for.

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  • tinkerbell

    what causes stress, the continual FRUSTRATION of not being allowed to get on and do your job.

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  • Pirate and Parrot

    If it is used properly, the Francis Report should help: we must all, HCPs and lay, fight to stop his incisive analysis and suggested solutions from being swept under the carpet.

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  • tinkerbell

    Pirate and Parrot | 13-Jul-2013 2:35 pm

    the what report?

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  • If Nurses were an army fighting the Government armies...
    The Nurse Leaders would kneel
    About half the Nurses's army would start squabbling on the best course of action
    Some would run away
    And nobody would support those who actually would fight
    and the patients would suffer

    If nurses were united...
    The Nurse Leaders would stand their ground
    And all the nurses would fight as a single unit and they would win
    The patients would get well




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  • tinkerbell

    PDave Angel | 13-Jul-2013 9:15 pm

    if only.

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  • Hi Christine

    Could you say a little more about your survey such as how many were surveyed, number of responses, what type of organisation etc? your results mirror what I am hearing in a preceptee action learning set & it would be useful evidence to have.

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  • "It is evident that if nurses were given some care and compassion themselves, plus the time to deliver care, they could fulfil their often desperate ambition to deliver high-quality compassionate care to everyone.
    So the question is who’s caring for the carers? "

    Could Jane Cummings, Chief Nurse, please take this onboard. Some sensible analysis instead of her "back of an envelope" prescription.

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  • Whilst useless people like Cummings continue to imply that all the ills of the profession can be cured by her ridiculous "strategy" pressure and stress on "Real Nurses" will continue to increase !

    Get a grip Cummings it is staffing levels and skill mix that are the important issues not some idiotic dreamt up 6C nonsense

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