Inadequate Preparation in the Classroom Leads to Stressed out Nurses
by hcoms1 on April 13, 2014 - 9:02pm
As a current nursing school student, the stress associated with my current position and future occupation is substantial. In a recent social science article, Suresh, Matthews, and Coyne (2012) examine stress and stressors in the clinical environment regarding fourth-year student nurses and newly qualified nurses in Ireland. Suresh and colleagues assess perceived stress between student and newly graduated nurses, and their findings pose an interesting point of where this stress originates. The main objective of this study was to not only identify the sources and the amount of stress for new nurses, but also to investigate any differences in levels of stress between student and graduate nurses in the Dublin/North-East region of Ireland. Research was conducted through a comparative study of two non-experimental groups with a self-reported survey. The first group included newly qualified nurses, or nurses who worked full-time in an acute general setting, and had received their qualifications in the past six months. The second group was fourth-year student nurses who worked on an acute general ward during times of data collection. Due to a low response rate of nurses given the survey, this study is more exploratory than generalizable, yet it poses many interesting points that should be further investigated. The survey was based on the “Nursing Stress Scale”, or a scale divided into categories that aims to identify sources of stress and how often nurses felt stressed under certain situations in the clinical environment. An open-ended question at the end of the survey allowed participants to leave any comments or suggestions on stressors in the clinical environment. Survey conclusions found that perceived stress was very high among all participants, but was not particularly higher in newly qualified nurses compared to student nurses. Responses from the open-ended question at the end of the survey were mainly about excessive workload, difficult working relationships, and an especially interesting theme of feelings of unmet learning needs in the clinical environment. Many nurses noted a dissonance between learning and applying theory to clinical practice, making the transition from learning in the classroom to working on the hospital floor extremely stressful.
Suresh and colleague’s (2012) research shows that stress is a great reason for concern for both student and graduate nurses. In a given hospital, patient care should be a number one priority, but this factor may become disregarded if stressed nurses suffering under harmful conditions overwhelm the hospital atmosphere. As we already know, high levels of stress can lead to poor physiological and psychological health, and when working in the medical field, it is important for nurses to be well in both categories. Nurses make up a large portion of the population of a hospital, and stressed nurses lead to stressed doctors, patients, and family members with loved ones in need of care. It is crucial that nurses find a way to manage stress in order to avoid disintegration of their own quality of care. Every nurse that participated in the study cited at least some amounts of stress in more than one area of work. Much of this stress, however, is rooted in the primary stressor of feeling unprepared when transitioning from the classroom environment to the clinical world. Nursing school administrators and department heads need to take attention to studies such as this in order to understand that their students are not feeling adequately prepared to begin the actual practice of nursing. As a student myself who has not yet begun practice in the clinical field, it’s very critical for my own and my classmate’s education that our professors prepare us as well as possible for entering the clinical environment so that we can provide the best care as possible and not be overcome with stress. Further development of clinical skills as a student is necessary, which may mean having to alter the classroom environment from where it currently stands. Perhaps less emphasis should be placed on writing long papers and reading pages and pages of incredibly dense text about theory, and more of an emphasis should be placed on practicing, as that is what we nurses will be doing throughout the entirety of our careers. Students should have the opportunity to practice as many hands-on tasks as possible and begin to truly feel comfortable in the monitored environment of the classroom. We students should have the means to practice, make mistakes, and learn from our errors in order to know how to handle things when we’re working with real patients who need our help. Though being placed in the hospital environment for the first time will be stressful for anyone, students having the knowledge that they have dealt with similar tasks in the simulated classroom environment and can confidently handle them would no doubt ease some of the strain. As a new nurse, having less stress from the start will only have a positive influence on all other parts of one’s work in the hospital. Suresh and colleague’s study provides great insight into the stress of a nurse, and the knowledge that the root of this stress may be from deficiencies in the learning environment of the classroom. Nursing departments in schools everywhere need to assure they are allowing their students as much realistic practice as possible so when the time comes for students to be a part of the hospital environment, they are adequately prepared and confident in their own abilities to perform as a nurse.
Suresh, P., Matthews, A., & Coyne, I. (2012). Stress and stressors in the clinical environment: a comparative study of fourth-year student nurses and newly qualified nurses in Ireland. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 22, 770-779.