The common stereotype in nursing, for both students and working RNs/LPNs, is that the profession although rewarding can be extremely stressful. However, there’s more to levels of stress for nurses that meets the eyes. Other factors are at work causing the stress phenomenon to vary depending on factors such as individual job satisfaction, coping mechanisms, particular role, ect. Not all stress is bad stress though. Sure, some stress makes nurses literally sick. However, other types of stress can become that positive boost to help to make it through a long shift.
Main Causes of Distress in Nurses
- leadership/management style
- professional conflict
emotional cost of caring
Source of “Stressors”
- uncertainty in treatment
- lack of preparation
- problems with peers/supervisor/physicians
- patients and/or their families
- death of patient
However, it cannot be known for sure which stress factors are the most likely to make a severe impact on a nurse, but some research has found that the top 4 are:
- High workloads: As there have become more and more electronic data entry required in nursing, there is increasingly less time to actually spend with patients. Additionally, facilities and hospitals with staff shortages can have a nasty effect on the nurses who have to get even more done.
- Conflict with other staff (nurses and/or physicians): Professional conflicts at work could be best improved by adopting an altered model for how to deal with co-workers. Hospitals noticing high levels of college conflicts should make strides to embrace a style of “transactional leadership” so that an interventionist is able to stomp out any potentially negative workplace relationships.
- Lack of clarity for tasks: Another reason management and leadership styles are extremely relevant towards nurse distress at work, is the feeling of uncertainty about the goals.
- An overbearing head nurse closely monitoring performance: A nagging head nurse can put a lot of unwanted stress on nurses.
Individual Stress Perception
Personal factors, or what some may refer to as “hardiness” can play a large role in the individual perception of stress. For example, nurses in different clinical areas may have similar workloads but less of a detrimental environment. Some nurses don’t admit to being as stressed because of developed abilities to cope at stronger rates. Personal levels of companionship and social interaction in the workplace can always alter one’s perception of stress.
The “Positive Stress”: Eustress
Being a nurse isn’t all negative, however. Eustress literally translates to “good stress” with a Greek suffix for “well” or “good.” Nurses can actually feel excitement from fear leading to increased arousal levels, and a sharper working mind. Additionally, physiologically and physically nurses can start experiencing:
- Quicker reaction times
- Release of metabolic hormones
- Increased alertness
- Feeling energized