The Prevalence and Perceived Benefit of Prescribed Anti-Anxiety Medications Used By BSN Students in Virginia

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Lauren M. Atkins, SN
Department of Nursing, Longwood University, Farmville, VA, USA

There is no published literature that addresses the prevalence of prescribed anti-anxiety medications used by nursing students, nor are there any published studies that reveal the perceived benefit of prescribed anti-anxiety medications used by nursing students to alleviate the stress of nursing school. However, nursing students self-report widespread stress and anxiety related to the nursing education environment and the use of prescribed anti-anxiety mediations to help alleviate the stress.

The literature does address the prevalence of stress in the nursing education environment and the detrimental effects of this stress on nursing students including their ability to effectively learn. There is also published literature among associated professional fields including medicine, social work, pharmacy and dental students, all addressing the negative impact of stress on the learning of students in these environments. Sources of stress include the clinical environment, tests and exams, interactions with faculty, social isolation, and simulation exercises. Interventions typically advocated for use include meditation, exercise, reflection, counseling, journeling, mindfulness and yoga. Use of prescribed medications is not typically advocated, but is thought to be in widespread use.

The purpose of this study was to begin to understand how wide-spread the use of prescribed anti-anxiety medications is among BSN students in Virginia, and to determine the perceived benefit of the medications to the nursing students. This was a descriptive study and participants were nursing students in attendance at the Virginia Nursing Students Association annual meeting.

Students completed a survey that was distributed at registration at their annual student nursing conference. The survey form asked about their experiences with nursing program related anxiety and methods they commonly use to manage the anxiety, including the use of prescribed anti-anxiety medications. Responses were tallied and descriptive statistics will be reported. Survey responses show that participants in the study overwhelmingly listed sources of stress requiring anti-anxiety management including prescriptions to manage stress associated with clinical learning, simulation experiences, assignments, exams, faculty interactions and social isolation.