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Home > News > News Article

Nursing a stressful career choice's

Nursing a stressful career choice
A survey has made official what the country’s nursing sector has known all along – that nursing is one of the most stressful career choices someone can make.

A national survey for Lifeline Australia found that people who work in the health and community services sector are the most stressed out in the country. 

Nurses came in ahead of those working within religious services, public order, interest groups and the hire sector.

The survey, released earlier this year, determined that by gender, the most stressful jobs for women are nursing and carers work, followed by labour intensive jobs and then other health professionals. For men, the most stressful work is labour-related work, followed by men working in trades and then transport workers.

The information for the survey came
from workers’ compensation statistics from Safe Work Australia. The data from workers’ compensation claims also shows that the cost of stress related claims are as much as three times higher than the median claim.

Dawn O’Neil, chief executive, Lifeline Australia says the median compensation payment for Australian workers in all industries is $6,100. But for mental stress, that figures rises to $15,500.

O’Neil says workplaces need to be proactive, preventative and intervene early before stress becomes a problem. “We all need to understand where we and those around us are sitting within our journeys, and recognise when we aren’t doing so well. We know that stress can sometimes have a very serious impact on the mind and body, or may exacerbate pre-existing conditions. That’s why we want people to think preventatively, and consider actively managing their stress early, before it escalates to a dangerous level,” O’Neil says.

Australia’s nursing workforce is not alone. A US study into work-related stress in nursing published some years ago says if someone wanted to create the optimum environment for the manufacture of stress, many of the factors you would include would be clearly recognised by nursing staff as events which they encounter in their daily routine. These include an enclosed atmosphere, time pressures, excessive noise, sudden swings from intense to mundane tasks, no second chance, unpleasant sights and sounds and standing for long hours. “Everyday the nurse confronts stark suffering, grief and death as few other people do. Many nursing tasks are mundane and unrewarding. Many are, by normal standards, distasteful and disgusting. Others are often degrading; some are simply frightening,” the report quoted.

The report also says that a situation which is typically experienced as stressful is perceived to involve work demands that are threatening or which are not well matched to knowledge, skills and ability to cope of the nurses involved, work which does not fulfil someone’s needs, particularly where nurses have little control over work or receive little support at work or at home.

The US report also quoted authors of previous studies into nursing, who identified seven major sources of stress as being dealing with death and dying, conflict with physicians, inadequate preparation to deal with the emotional needs of patients and their families, lack of staff support, conflict with other nurses and supervisors, workload and uncertainty concerning treatment.

Closer to home, a report by the Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing also accepted a scholarly report in 2006 titled ‘Burnout in Nursing’ which surveyed a random sample of registered division one nurses in Victoria who were Australian Nursing Federation members. 

The report found that feeling pressured, or being expected to work overtime was associated with emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation, suggesting that management needed to be mindful of this situation if foreshadowed nurse shortages continue. It also found that nurses who gained their primary nursing qualification at a university or college tended to have higher emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation than hospital trained nurses. 

The study highlighted the importance of working manageable hours and that increasing years of nursing experience is likely to be beneficial for the worker.

However, on the positive side, the report concluded that Victorian nurses, at least, are not experiencing high levels of burnout and the vast majority were satisfied with their career choice.

Despite this, the issue of workplace stress among nurses should not be down-played. A Victorian health website says a person suffering from work-related stress can help themselves in a number of ways. 

It suggests:

· Think about the changes that need to be made at work in order to reduce stress levels; then take action both by yourself and with the cooperation of others.
· Talk over concerns with your employer or human resources manager.
· Be well organised and schedule the most difficult tasks of each day for times when you’re fresh, such as first thing in the morning.
· Take care of yourself, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
· Consider the benefits of regular relaxation, such as meditation or yoga.
· Make sure you have enough free time to yourself every week.
· Don’t take stress out on loved ones. Instead, tell them about your work problems and ask for their support and suggestions.