As a nurse, people rely on you. So it’s important for you to take care of yourself in order to take care of others – your patients, family, and friends. Workplace stress can derail your best efforts. It impairs your ability to function on the job, and to enjoy your life outside of work.

What do nurses find most stressful about their profession?

According to the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health, studies have generally linked these 11 factors with stress for nurses:

 1. Work overload (too much to do, not enough time)

2. Time pressure (hurry, hurry, hurry – that’s due yesterday)

3. Lack of social support (particularly from higher-ups)

4. Exposure to infectious diseases

5. Needlestick injuries

6. Exposure to work-related violence or threats

7. Sleep deprivation (especially for shift workers)

8. Role ambiguity and conflict (ironically, “change initiatives” can confuse roles even more)

9. Understaffing (shortage of trained and/or experienced nurses)

10. Lack of career development options (limited opportunities for promotion)

11. Dealing with difficult or deathly ill patients (just a part of nursing, of course, but still stressful)

A dysfunctional organizational climate –  conflict between co-workers and friction between management and staff – can cause nurses to feel unsupported and lead to even more workplace stress. On the flip side, nurses may thrive at work, but suffer from conflicting home and family demands on their time and energy.

Thankfully, many health care organizations do promote employee health, often with an emphasis on prevention versus patch-up repairs. They want their nurses engaged, enthused, and involved. Check to see if an employee assistance, wellness, or stress reduction program is available to you. (Often they’re free, or at a minimum, low-cost.) Or, if you’d like to access help on an informal basis, reach out to your co-workers and fellow members of professional nursing organizations for support.

See also
In the Spotlight: Dr. Kahlil Demonbreun

So, do you agree with this list of top stressors? What kinds of stress do you face in your work? What methods of coping have you found to be the most effective?

Give us a shout – we’d like to hear your views about stress in the nursing profession.

Jebra Turner is a health reporter and former H.R. director for an ergonomics-focused firm, where she oversaw workplace health and safety training programs for staff and clients. She lives in Portland, Oregon, but you can visit her at

Jebra Turner
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