Helping Nursing Students Cope with Stress

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Aida Cruz Mendes, PhD, RN
Health Sciences Research Unit: Nursing Domain, Coimbra Nursing School, Coimbra, Portugal

Learning Objective 1: identify the correlation between coping and locus of control and stress vulnerability

Learning Objective 2: identify the main components of the training programme on how to cope with stress.

Purpose: Since nursing is a potentially stress-producing occupation (Mendes, 1995, Van den Tooren, 2008), it is important to help students improve their resources and strategies for coping with stress (Adejumo e Brysiewicz, 1998, Mendes, 2002). This study aims to analyse the characteristics of the students who voluntarily enrolled in a training course to develop strategies for coping with stress and the results of joining this programme.

Methods: quantitative, descriptive study, multiple measures
An optional curricular unit (strategies for coping with stress) was offered to 28 students enrolled in the 5th semester of the Nursing Degree Course. The unit addressed this theme in a multimodal approach (Lazarus, 1989; 1991) in 9 sessions over a three-month period.   
The variables “vulnerability to stress” (measured using the 23 QVS, Vaz-Serra, 2000), “coping” (IRP, Vaz-Serra, 1988) and “locus of control” (IPC, Levenson, 1972) are measured on the 1st day and on the last day of the programme and the results are then compared.

Results: Initial evaluation: The variables under analysis have a normal distribution (K-S test p>0.05). Taking into account the cut-point suggested by the author, 5 students vulnerable to stress were identified (23QVS ≥ 43). There was a negative and statistically significant correlation between coping strategies and stress vulnerability (r = -0.535; p = 0.003) and a positive and statistically significant correlation between vulnerability and random external locus of control (r = 0.483; p = 0.009).

Conclusion: Although the final results of the programme will only be available in March, we may already conclude that stress vulnerability is related to coping and externality and, therefore, these dimensions should be included in the training programmes on coping with stress.