Introduction Stress in nurses is an endemic problem. It contributes to health problems in nurses and decreases their efficiency. Documenting the causes and extent of stress in any healthcare unit is essential for successful interventions. This exploratory study attempted to establish the existence and extent of work stress in nurses in a hospital setting, to identify the major sources of stress, and to find the incidence of psychosomatic illness related to stress. In addition it was attempted to examine relationship between perception of work-related stress and ill-health symptoms among the study sample.
Methods Responses from 81 nurses from three hospitals in Mumbai were studied.
‘Stress Scale’ was designed with the help of two survey instruments – ‘Nurses Stress Scale’ developed in 1981 by Grey-Toft and ‘A to Z test on the occupational sources of stress’’ developed by Asis K.Chakrabarti, ex-Director (Industrial Psychology) at Central Labour Institute, Mumbai.
Questionnaire method of data collection was adopted ensuring absolute confidentiality to protect identity, to ensure honesty in responding, and to obtain a reasonable response rate.
Statistical analysis of correlation was utilised to verify the results to prove the relationship between the perception of stress and ill-health symptoms among hospital nurses.
Results There exists a significant positive correlation between perception of occupational stress and psychosomatic symptoms among nurses. Psychosomatic disorders like backache, neck stiffness, and increased consumption of caffeinated products significantly increased in nurses having higher stress scores.
Discussion Moderate levels of stress were seen in a majority of nurses. It has been established that incidence of psychosomatic illness increases with the level of stress. Healthcare organisations need to urgently take preemptive steps to counter this problem in view of acute shortage of trained nurses. Without a comprehensive plan to deal with the issue, the problem may escalate into risks to patients and other consumers.