Study blames nurses' health problems on stress, overwork, lack of respect

By John Ward

OTTAWA (CP) - Everyone has heard stories of overworked, stressed-out nurses, but a new Statistics Canada study has put flesh on the anecdotal bones, confirming many of the complaints.

In fact, the study suggests that the job is making nurses sick. The study surveyed nearly 19,000 nurses between October 2005 and January 2006, including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and registered psychiatric nurses.

It found that about 10 per cent were injured on the job in the previous year, whether they were stuck by needles or even physically assaulted by patients.

About 37 per cent reported they had experienced pain serious enough to prevent them from carrying out their normal daily activities in the year before the survey and three-quarters of them blamed job factors.

The survey links work stress, low autonomy and lack of respect to health problems among nurses.

It says job strain was strongly related to fair or poor physical and mental health.

"For example, 17 per cent of nurses who perceived high job strain reported 20 or more sick days in the past year, compared with 12 per cent of nurses who perceived less job strain."

That's no surprise to Andrea Baumann, director of the Nursing Health Services Research Centre at McMaster University.

"We've seen along with firemen and policemen a sort of high job strain because of the intensity of the work," she said. "The intensity of the work is increasing because of the shortened stays, sicker patients and fewer staff.

The survey found that many of the country's 314,900 nurses were expected to work regular overtime. Half of them put in an average of four hours a week in unpaid overtime. As well, many nurses have more than one job.

The study, conducted in concert with Health Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information, also found that nurses were more likely to report high stress levels at work than people in the general work force.

The researchers defined work stress as occurring when job responsibilities outpaced a worker's ability to decide how to perform the tasks required of them.

"It's too few nurses for too many patients," said Lisa Little, senior nursing consultant with the Canadian Nursing Association.

"I think 67 per cent say there's too much work for one person, they can't provide the quality of care that they want, there's not enough time to do what's expected.

"All of those kinds of things, I think, are all feeding into what we're seeing in terms of their health."

The statistics agency said nearly a third (31 per cent) of female nurses were classified as having high job strain while the figure for all employed women was 26 per cent.

Nurses were also more likely to report depression than people in the general work force.

Copyright 2006 Canadian Press
This article is totally biased.....and is typical of agenda driven "authoritative reports"....

There are many professionals who become depressed through their work and can include nurses and nurses aide's and other health care workers but they are not the only group. A key phrase here is the last line of the report that nurses were more likely to report workplace depression - because it is not stigmatizing for them to do so. Other jobs are in as much danger of causing depression, but the workers rarely report it, and many self-medicate with alcohol or drugs.

There are people who work in correction institutions for example - guards and auxiliary workers - many have depression and rarely have the ability to express it because their "job" creates the image they must not show weakness (which could mean losing their lives).... and are trained to keep it inside. Depression then expresses itself in many ways such as phobic reaction, etc.

Other "high incident" groups ...

Doctors are often depressed.

Peace-workers are often depressed.

Miliitary people are often depressed and the same consequences for them apply as do correctional institution employees, that they rarely demonstrate depression and get help for it.

Educators are often depressed.

Law enforcement and crime scene specialists and morgue workers are often depressed.

I hardly think one can link depression to any one occupation in the overall stats as many people are depressed for reasons other than their job (or lack thereof), or life situations, or death or loss of a loved one, or accident, and some depressions are inherited throughout family genetics. Many seniors are depressed, many single mothers are depressed, many lonely individuals are depressed...... how about airport secuity screeners these days... and in the U.S. the border patrol.....and so on....

Sanctus I apologize for blowing off steam on this article and "interview of nurses" because I am certain the author wishes to point out an inherent flaw in one particular professional workplace....but they are not alone and if they want to create something realistic by doing causes of depression in the workplace....they would have to venture far afield of merely reporting on hospital incidents and nurse/patient ratio.

No...this is a biased report and while it may represent fact regarding nurses, it does not cover the whole issue of depression in our society.
Quote: Originally Posted by Curiosity View Post

Other "high incident" groups ...

Doctors are often depressed.

Indeed; in fact, female physicians have a significantly increased risk of suicide.
I don't think the point of the article or survey was to try to cover the issues of depression or overwork in general in our society. Obviously I'm a nurse, so that's the job I know and this didn't surprise me at all. I think nursing is a bit unique in the stressors we encounter and the tools we have to deal with them. It's such a sandwiched proffesion. My brother is a police officer which is definitely high stress, but the stress is different and how they deal with it is different. Every job has its own issues. It's important to learn what they are in nursing because without identifying the causes of the problems, they'll never get fixed. With the shortage only set to get worse, they need to know how to retain nurses or hospitals will be in chaos.

The part that rang really true to me was that many nurses don't feel they are able to provide the quality of care that patients deserve. Nothing is more disheartening than that. It's a rude awakening to go into a profession wanting to really help people and find out that it often won't be possible thanks to staff shortages. Sometimes there is too much to do and not enough time to do it, and when you can't do the impossible you often face the wrath of everyone around you. There were definitely days I thought about going back to my library job.... then I'd look after a sweet family and I'd remember why I love nursing.

I consider myself very lucky to be working in California. Assignments are still busy, but thanks to mandatory patient to nurse ratios they are usually manageable. Plus, since there are so many jobs here I don't have any reason to stay in one that makes me unhappy. I can't tell you what a freeing realization that was!!! My job will never be perfect because no job is, but I still love it and can't imagine doing anything else.