Nurses 'more stressed by being undervalued than by workload'
Nurses may suffer more stress due to feeling undervalued than because of their workload, a study has suggested.
Researchers at the University of Aberdeen measured the heart rate of 100 nurses at a teaching hospital over two shifts.
They recorded the tasks they were doing and how stressful they found the work every 90 minutes.
The team hopes the findings can be used to improve the working environment for nurses.
They found the type of work the nurses were doing did not greatly affect how they felt.
Instead it was what they thought about the work that was important.
While they were more stressed when the work was demanding, they felt less stressed if they felt in control of their activities and if they felt valued and appreciated.
The study reported that the most rewarding work was dealing directly with patients.
Co-author Prof Derek Johnston said: "Our results show that feelings of stress are more likely to be due to factors influencing how the work is perceived rather than the work itself.
"Nursing is inevitably demanding and the effects of demand can be seen physiologically by an increase in heart rate which over time, might impinge on their long-term health.
"We found that these effects of demand are reduced if the nurse feels that they are in control and that their work is valued."
He explained: "This is the first time that anyone has comprehensively measured the effects of stress in nurses throughout their working day - while they were actually caring for patients in hospital wards.
"So, these results may prove to be very helpful in considering how to provide a supportive and healthy working environment for nurses.
"Nursing is by its very nature a demanding job but perhaps in the future we should consider ways of increasing the control that nurses have and how rewarded they feel so that we can minimise their stress."
Norman Provan, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland associate director, said: "It is no surprise that nurses say their most rewarding work is dealing directly with patients - it is exactly why they are in the profession in the first place.
"And it is also no surprise that their stress levels seem to increase because they feel undervalued and when they are not in control of their work.
"Nurses responding to the NHS Scotland survey published last week said they that they are not consulted about changes and that they are also unclear about how changes will work out in practice.
"It's the professionalism, skills and dedication that help to keep our NHS going and Scottish government and health boards must involve and engage with them on the changes that have to be made if health and care services are to be fit for the future."