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Stress levels higher for nurses who feel undervalued

  • 6 Comments

Nurses may experience higher levels of stress from feeling underappreciated than from the demands of the actual tasks they carry out, a new study has found.

Those who believed they have more control over their work and felt valued were less likely to feel stressed or tired, according to the research led by the University of Aberdeen.

“These results suggest interventions might be effective in reducing both the physiological and psychological aspects of stress without needing to change work tasks”

University of Aberdeen study on nurse stress levels

The study, published in the journal Annals of Behavioural Medicine, involved recording the physiological and psychological aspects of stress for 100 nurses at a large teaching hospital in the north east of Scotland.

Study participants recorded the tasks they were doing and how stressful they found them every 90 minutes over two work shifts. Meanwhile, their heart rate and activity was measured continuously.

The type of work nurses were doing, such as dealing with patients or communicating with other health professionals, did not significantly affect how stressed they felt, according to the research authors who said it was instead how they viewed the work that had an impact on their mood.

While overall stress levels rose when the work was demanding, nurses said this feeling was reduced if they felt in control of their activities and felt valued and appreciated.

“In the future we should consider ways of increasing the control that nurses have and how rewarded they feel so that we can minimise their stress”

Professor Derek Johnston

Those behind the study suggested changes to working environments could be introduced - rather than altering tasks themselves - to reduce nurse stress levels in the future.

“Importantly, these results would suggest that interventions might be effective in reducing both the physiological and psychological aspects of stress without needing to change work tasks. In the context of nursing and health care, this makes practical sense as it would be impossible to remove tasks involving direct patient care,” they said in their research paper.

Professor Derek Johnston, from the university’s school of psychology, who co-authored the paper, said: “Nursing is inevitably demanding and the effects of demand can be seen physiologically by an increase in heart rate which over time, might impinge on their long-term health. We found that these effects of demand are reduced if the nurse feels that they are in control and that their work is valued.

He added: “This is the first time that anyone has comprehensively measured the effects of stress in nurses throughout their working day - while they were actually caring for patients in hospital wards. So, these results may prove to be very helpful in considering how to provide a supportive and healthy working environment for nurses.

“Nursing is by its very nature a demanding job but perhaps in the future we should consider ways of increasing the control that nurses have and how rewarded they feel so that we can minimise their stress.”

  • 6 Comments

Readers' comments (6)

  • shocker

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  • provide a supportive and healthy working environment for nurses....reduce the paperwork, employ sufficient numbers of us, get rid of most of the managers as the majority do not have a clue what we do nor do they care

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  • I wonder if Hunt will demand action on this research finding, as he did with death rates over the weekend? The government will only listen to findings that suit their purposes.

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  • I feel very appreciated by the GPs and surgery staff I am attached to. The place I feel the least appreciated is within my NHS trust i.e my employers. I am trying to do the best job I can but we are constantly being told that we can only achieve a 'silver'standard care at present. I will always aim for a ' Gold' standard. It is not in the nature of nurses to lower the standard of care. That is the stress for me.

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  • 22 DECEMBER, 2015 7:21 PM

    It can be done, outside the UK. I had amazing working conditions in a European university hospital, positive in every way, and was totally shocked how I was treated from the day I started in the UK. In the private sector and the paucity of jobs to match my training and experience in the NHS. I would love to have shared this with the NHS and helped to create a more supportive and motivating working environment but any innovative ideas from outside clearly disturb the cosy lay managerial status quo and even though two senior clinicians offered me places in their teams the final say in the recruitment process remains with HR (Human Remains)!

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  • mr hunt does not value nurses one bit, constantly denigrating nurses, what employer constantly tells "customers" the staff are "cr002

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