Critical Care Nurse Personality and Coping after a Critical Incident

Tuesday, 8 July 2008: 1:15 PM
Sandra C. Huggins, RN, MSN, CCRN , Family Nurse Practitioner Program, Southern Adventist University, School of Nursing, Ooltewah, TN

Learning Objective 1: 1. Personality and Critical Incident Stress Overview a. Identify key stressors b. Identify current trends in stress intervention c. Identify five personality traits

Learning Objective 2: 2. Correlations between Personality and Critical Incident Coping a. Review personality and coping correlations b. Identify adaptive/maladaptive coping c. Creating a healthy nursing workforce

Critical care nurses frequently experience emotional, traumatic events that are physically and emotionally overwhelming. Such events are termed critical incidents. Critical incidents are commonly viewed as a difficult but realistic part of working in intensive care units, emergency departments, and other critical care areas.

Critical care nurses repeatedly are left to deal with their personal emotions, thoughts, and vivid recollections of critical incidents without structured support or guidance. Many nurses develop critical incident stress with ineffective coping patterns that impair their critical thinking ability, performance, and overall well-being. If left unresolved, critical incident stress contributes to an increase in medication and treatment errors. Critical incident stress also causes an increase in absenteeism and stress disability claims. In addition, many nurses will leave the nursing workforce because of unresolved stress, lack of support, and unhealthy work environments.

New and innovative methods of stress reduction are needed in order to facilitate coping and actively support critical care nurses who are exposed to critical incidents. One novel approach is to identify the unique personality traits of critical care nurses along with preferred, individualized coping methods. Specific stress-reduction strategies could be implemented by hospital administrators and managers as a means of nurturing effective coping and actively supporting nurses, thus improving working environments and preventing continually high turnover rates in critical care settings.

This descriptive correlational study identified five distinct personality traits that commonly exist in critical care nurses. Preferred stress reduction interventions that are considered therapeutic for alleviating critical incident stress were established. The data suggest that a definitive correlation exists between specific personality traits and methods of stress reduction and coping following a critical incident. By identifying individual personality traits and correlating coping methods, critical care nurses can effectively reduce critical incident stress and establish healthier work environments for themselves and their peers.