Helping Nurses Cope with Stressful Workplace Events through the Use of Storytelling

Sunday, 19 March 2017: 9:00 AM

Danna L. Curcio, PhD
School of Health Sciences, Department of Nursing, College of Staten Staten, CUNY, Staten Island, NY, USA

The purpose of this presentation is to provide insight and knowledge about an important, efficient, and cost effective intervention to decrease workplace stress. Nursing sick and dying children can be a source of great stress and high exposure to such events can cause burnout and compassion fatigue (Ko & Kiser-Larson, 2016). This may eventually lead to an impact on nursing competencies and productivity including absenteeism, decreased work performance, and quality of patient care (Fathi, Nasae & Thiangchanya, 2012; Milliken, Clements & Tillman, 2007). Addressing workplace stress may also help reduce hospital costs associated with these issues.

The National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care (2013) selected specific domains containing supportive measures to help nurses provide quality patient care through stress management. Additionally, stress-reducing interventions have the potential to create positive work environments, positive emotional health, and in turn, positive patient care outcomes. There are several interventions that have been utilized and the intervention of storytelling was researched as the most cost effective option.

Storytelling can be seen as an important intervention to help decrease stress. It is a verbal recounting of a perceived meaningful event to one or more individuals that share similar experiences. By the use of storytelling, nurses’ may be able to manage their stress while being provided the opportunity to discuss concerns and simultaneously provide support to other nurses who experience similar events (Cook, et al, 2012; Macpherson, 2008). Also, through the intervention of storytelling nurses can reflect on and make sense of the experience they tell about, creating meaning, which allows for coping and learning when similar events transpire.

This intervention was used for a pilot study involving 9 pediatric nurses working in both a neonatal intensive care unit and an inpatient pediatric unit. The method for conducting this research was both qualitative and quantitative in nature. In using a mixed-method approach quantifying data, using the Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen, Kamarck & Mermelstein, 1983) and qualitative data, using 3 questions created by this researcher, yielded information about stress reduction interventions in this participant population. This intervention is a simple approach to stress reduction options and may be considered for use worldwide, as stressful workplace environments are not limited in boundaries.

Learner objectives:

1. The learner will be able to explain the steps of an effective storytelling intervention.

One feature of storytelling is the creation of dyads and/or small groups who self-identify with co-workers they feel comfortable with and who can provide support. Next a schedule should be set for meeting times, days, and places. Once the schedule is established the intervention should follow a set routine of steps to take such as identification of the storyteller and listener, prompting questions to guide the process, and reversal of roles for others to participate as storyteller.

2. The learner will be able to utilize this intervention in their own practice.

Once the storytelling intervention is understood, the steps that guide the intervention can be used for stress reduction. Nurses who choose to participate and who believe that the intervention will help with their workplace stress levels can utilize storytelling at any time.

3. The learner will be able to appraise the importance of the intervention of storytelling so that perceived workplace stress will be reduced.

During the process of storytelling the nurses reflect on, and make meaning of, the experience. Verbally communicating stories of patient events promotes healing by understanding and making sense of traumatic experiences creating a sense of connectedness, providing personal resilience, increasing coping, and decreasing stress (East, Jackson, O'Brien & Peters, 2010).