Feeling valued helps nurses control stress levels

Published: 13 January 2016 at 12:08

Nurse stress

Anglia Ruskin professor involved in first ever study of stress on the wards in real time

Nurses are less likely to be stressed by the demands of a day on the ward if they feel valued and in control, according to a pioneering study.

During two work shifts, 100 nurses were asked to complete electronic diaries and had their heart rates continuously measured to see monitor their stress levels. The study – the first to measure the effects of stress on nurses throughout their working day – found that the actual tasks assigned to them had little impact on their stress levels. 

However, what did make a difference was whether the nurse felt in control of the work, and whether they felt valued or appreciated, such as when interacting with patients (direct care). These direct care tasks did lead nurses to report feeling more stressed than other work, such as completing paperwork, but they also reported direct care to be more rewarding than other tasks. 

Heart rate was higher by around three beats per minute in those who appraised their work as more demanding or requiring more effort. If the nurses felt in control of their work, they felt less tense, more cheerful and less tired.

Anglia Ruskin University’s Professor Patricia Schofield was one of the principal investigators in the study, which was led by the University of Aberdeen.

Professor Schofield, Deputy Dean for Research within Anglia Ruskin’s Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, said:
“It takes a certain type of person to go into nursing. A caring and compassionate nature is a pre-requisite, but what this study shows is that in order to get the best out of our staff on the wards, this needs to be a two-way street.

“Nursing is a tough, but rewarding job and if healthcare professionals feel appreciated it can reduce their stress levels and help them cope with the demands of a day on the ward a lot better.”

The full study can be read here.