Nursing Students' Attitudes Toward Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Stress Relief

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Elizabeth V. Kinchen, PhD
Victoria W. Loerzel, PhD
College of Nursing, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, USA

Student nurses’ experience of stress while enrolled in educational programs is well-documented in the global literature (Cleary, Horsfall, Baines & Happell, 2012; Fornes-Vive, Garcia-Banda, Frias-Navarro & Rosales-Viladrich, 2016; Galbraith, Brown & Clifton, 2014; Graham, Lindo, Bryan & Weaver, 2016; Suresh, Matthews & Coyne, 2012); however, strategies to alleviate, manage, and cope with education-related stressors have not been fully explored.

Stressors to which nursing students are particularly vulnerable can have significant effects on ability to navigate educational and clinical environments, often contributing to ‘burnout’, dissatisfaction, and attrition in the profession (Asuero, Queralto, Pujol-Ribera, Berenguera, Rodriguez-Blanco & Epstein, 2014). In addition, the demands of didactic and clinical education leave little time for faculty to directly teach students self-care strategies.

Interventional strategies used by students to alleviate educational stress may take the form of pharmaceutical, psychological, or behavioral therapies. Yet there is a growing body of knowledge regarding the use of complementary and alternative modalities (CAM) for stress-related challenges in nursing programs (Escuriex & Labbe, 2011; Galbraith & Brown, 2011). Mindfulness programs, particularly meditation and yoga, are garnering interest as alternatives to established interventions, especially pharmaceutical preparations, which are costly and potentially problematic in clinical and educational environments.


This study reports secondary analysis of qualitative data from a larger study exploring the use of, and attitiudes toward, yoga and CAM on stress and quality of life in nursing students.


A convenience sample (n=80) of undergraduate nursing students in a southeastern U.S. university was invited to complete study surveys via email. Inclusion criteria included being age 18 or older, able to speak and read English, and in nursing classes at the time of study start date. Baseline data were collected using an investigator-developed instrument to explore participants' experience with, and attitudes toward, yoga and complementary practices as stress-relieving therapies. Demographic data obtained from participants included age, gender, and race/ethnicity. Content analysis was used to analyze data.


Data reveal that nursing students are open to the use of complementary therapies, that they employ a variety of such therapies to relieve, manage and cope with stress, and that they perceive CAM to have a positive impact on personal health. Themes identified in the data regarding CAM impact include self-empowerment, relaxation and restoration, mind/body/spirit/emotion, and alternative/complement to traditional medicine.


Student nurses experience a variety of stressors in nursing programs, and use a variety of strategies to relieve, manage and cope with stress. Data support the importance of CAM in dealing with educational stressors, and highlight the need for further research on individual CAM therapies in student nurse populations.