A longitudinal study of perceived level of stress, coping and self-esteem of undergraduate nursing students: an Australian case study


: Ruth Lo, School of Nursing and Health Care Practices, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia. E-mail: rlo@scu.edu.au


Aim.  The aim of this study was to investigate the perception and sources of stress, coping mechanisms used, and self-esteem in nursing students during 3 years of their undergraduate nursing programme.

Methods.  The sample consisted of a cohort of nursing students going through 3 years of a nursing programme. The method was a descriptive corelational design. The questionnaire consisted of demographic data, the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), Self-esteem Scale, and the modified Ways of Coping Scale. Data were analysed using frequency distributions, content analysis, and measures of correlation.

Results.  Results indicated that students in year 1 experienced significantly less transient stress as compared with year 2; students in year 3 had more positive self-esteem than year 2 students. There were no significant differences with regard to chronic stress, avoidance and proactive coping, and negative self-esteem. Chronic and transient stress, as measured by GHQ, were significantly correlated ( P  < 0·01) with avoidance coping behaviours, and negative self-esteem. Positive self-esteem was significantly correlated ( P  < 0·01) with proactive coping behaviours. The four main stressors in the last three years for this cohort of students, in descending order are nursing studies, finance, family and health. They coped by using both problem-focused and emotion-focused coping skills. There is a need to review the nursing curriculum and evaluate what impacts on students' stress levels, and also introduce strategies to reduce the stress levels of nursing students.