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Posted: November 14th, 2023

The Effect of Stress on the Nursing Staff Working with the Mental Health Patients

The Effect of Stress on the Nursing Staff Working with the Mental Health Patients

Mental health patients often require specialized care and attention from the nursing staff. However, working with this population can also expose the nurses to various sources of stress, such as high workload, emotional demands, violence, and stigma. This stress can have negative consequences for the nurses’ well-being, performance, and quality of care. Therefore, it is important to understand the factors that contribute to stress among the nursing staff working with the mental health patients, and the strategies that can help them cope and prevent burnout.

Sources of Stress

One of the main sources of stress for the nursing staff working with the mental health patients is the high workload. According to a study by Hamaideh (2018), nurses in psychiatric units reported higher levels of workload than nurses in other units, due to the complex needs of the patients, the lack of resources, and the frequent staff turnover. The high workload can lead to physical and mental exhaustion, reduced motivation, and increased absenteeism.

Another source of stress is the emotional demands of working with the mental health patients. Nurses often have to deal with challenging behaviors, such as aggression, self-harm, or suicidal ideation, which can trigger feelings of fear, anger, guilt, or sadness. Moreover, nurses may experience compassion fatigue, which is a state of emotional depletion caused by repeated exposure to the suffering of others (Figley, 1995). Compassion fatigue can affect the nurses’ empathy, communication skills, and professional identity.

A third source of stress is the violence that the nursing staff may encounter from the mental health patients or their families. According to a systematic review by Edward et al. (2017), nurses working in psychiatric settings are at a higher risk of experiencing physical and verbal abuse than nurses working in other settings. The violence can have psychological and physical impacts on the nurses, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, injuries, or chronic pain.

A fourth source of stress is the stigma associated with working with the mental health patients. Nurses may face negative attitudes and stereotypes from their colleagues, managers, or society, who may perceive them as less competent, less professional, or less valued than other nurses. This stigma can undermine the nurses’ self-esteem, career development, and social support.

Strategies to Cope and Prevent Burnout

To cope with the stress and prevent burnout, the nursing staff working with the mental health patients need to adopt various strategies at the individual and organizational levels. At the individual level, some of the strategies include:

– Seeking social support from family, friends, or peers who can provide emotional and practical assistance.
– Engaging in self-care activities that can enhance physical and mental health, such as exercise, meditation, hobbies, or relaxation techniques.
– Seeking professional help from counselors or therapists who can offer psychological interventions or referrals.
– Participating in education and training programs that can improve knowledge and skills related to working with the mental health patients.
– Developing a positive attitude and a sense of humor that can help cope with difficult situations and reduce stress.

At the organizational level, some of the strategies include:

– Providing adequate resources and staffing that can reduce workload and improve quality of care.
– Implementing policies and procedures that can prevent and manage violence and ensure safety for the staff and the patients.
– Providing supervision and feedback that can enhance performance and professional development.
– Creating a supportive and respectful work environment that can foster teamwork and collaboration.
– Recognizing and rewarding the contributions and achievements of the staff working with the mental health patients.

Conclusion

Working with the mental health patients can be rewarding but also stressful for the nursing staff. The stress can stem from various sources, such as high workload, emotional demands, violence, and stigma. The stress can affect the well-being, performance, and quality of care of the nurses. Therefore, it is essential to implement strategies that can help them cope and prevent burnout. These strategies involve both individual and organizational interventions that can enhance physical and mental health, knowledge and skills, safety and security, support and recognition for the nursing staff working with the mental health patients.

Works Cited

Edward K-L., Ousey K., Warelow P., Lui S. (2017). Nursing and aggression in
the workplace: a systematic review. British Journal of Nursing 26(12): 653–659.

Figley C.R. (1995). Compassion fatigue: Coping with secondary traumatic
stress disorder in those who treat the traumatized. Brunner/Mazel.

Hamaideh S.H. (2018). Work-related stress among nursing staff working in
governmental hospitals in Jordan. Journal of Psychiatric & Mental Health Nursing 25(10): 635–645.

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