A recent study of intensive care nurses from South Ostrobothnia Hospital District (EPSHP) found that personal characteristics such as age, body mass index (BMI), physical activeness, work-shift timings and its duration play a significant role in determining the stress levels. It is found that higher stress levels are associated with higher BMI, older age, low physical activity, and extended work hours.
Stress is a broad concept encompassing both subjective perception as well as a biological reactions in the body. Previous studies highlighted that stress is more common in the professions dealing with human subjects, such as nursing. Until recent times, one limitation of studying stress was lack of reliable and efficient tools for collecting objective data. However, in recent times, heart rate variability (HRV) gained popularity and established as an efficient biological marker of stress and wearable technology made it possible to monitor HRV in real-life situations.
The study drew upon the data collected under EVICURES project (2014-2016) at a hospital in Seinäjoki, Finland. The project is first of its kind in Finland to develop new user-friendly design models for intensive and intermediate care facilities. Ten nurses from the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) recorded their HRV over the four-day period using wellbeing monitoring technology developed by Jyväskylä based Firstbeat Technologies Oy. The technology helps collecting data of HRV through a wearable device that later analysed by a special software. Large amount of HRV based stress indices were analysed to investigate the effects of personal characteristics and work shifts on nurses’ stress.
The results underlines the importance of considering the risk factors such as higher BMI and low physical activity in working population. This is particularly important in demanding jobs such as intensive care nursing. Various strategies can be implemented such as ergonomic shift-work schedule and healthy work environment to explore their impact on stress levels. These interventional studies will help making evidence based policies for nursing work.
Results may not be generalizable due to small number of participants. However, in future studies with larger and representative sample may allow hospital managers to make informed choices particularly in planning work shifts and providing good work environment.
Author of the thesis
Master degree programme in Global Health Management
Laurea University of Applied Sciences
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