2 A case study in clinical warfare


2 A case study in clinical warfare

Topic Progress:

The work environment clinicians and other workers in healthcare settings work in can be inherently stressful.  The following presents findings in relation to the nursing workforce however, the same or worse could be experienced by doctors and other paramedical and allied health professionals.

A 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 are those that nursing staff routinely recognised as events they encounter day to day in their work.  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 (Dewe, P. (1987). New Zealand Ministers of Religion: Sources of Stress at Work. Work and Stress, 1, 351-363).

“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,” (Nurs Mirror. 1984 Dec 5;159(21):19-22. The humane face of nursing. Hingley P.)

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 fulfill someone’s needs, particularly where nurses have little control over work or receive little support at work or at home. (Cox and Griffiths 1996).

A survey carried out by the Nursing Times in the UK found that 8 out of 10 nurses feel they are under more pressure at work than they were 12 months ago, with seven out of 10 suffering the side-effects of stress.  While this is a UK result, a similar picture is being painted in US and Australia. The key reasons is that they feel they are being asked to do more in less time.

Stress related affects include physical and mental health problems.  74% of nurses surveyed said they had felt under pressure from their organisation to come to work when they were feeling ill this year, nearly two-thirds said they were not happy with their work-life balance and 73% thought their (employer) failed to attach a high enough priority to staff health and well being.

The RCN’s Beyond Breaking Point survey of over 2,000 nursing staff found 55% had been made unwell by stress over the previous year and 82% had gone to work despite feeling too ill to do.


  • In the Forum, tell me what are the things in your environment that causes stress?
  • Check out the downloads on stress in nursing – it is sobering reading!
  • Does this also reflect the environment that you work in as a doctor, allied health or paramedical professional?

Impact of Work Stress on Nurses Nursing Essay
ICN on Occupational Stress and the Threat to Worker Health
Work-related stress in nursing-Controlling the risk to health
Workplace stress in nursing-A literature review


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