Coping and stress: a conceptual analysis


Ruth Keil,
Carmarthenshire NHS Trust,
Professional Development for Community Staff,
Mynedd Mawr Hospital,
Carmarthenshire SA14 6BU,


Background.  Much work has been done towards the classification of clinical concepts in nursing. However, there is a comparative lack of analysis of non-technical terms, which nevertheless bear closely on professional practice in nursing. Within nursing classifications, the term ‘coping’ functions as an element in more complex conceptual structures, the term itself being left relatively undefined. The case is similar for the term ‘stress’– the set of circumstances with which the individual is attempting to cope.

Aims.  The aim of this paper is to arrive at grounds for consensus over the use and meaning of the widely used terms ‘stress’ and ‘coping’.

Methods.  A conceptual analysis of the terms ‘stress’ and ‘coping’ was carried out, looking at etymology, ordinary usage and theoretical contingencies, in order to generate paradigmatic cases. A range of nursing and non-nursing literature was examined in order to illustrate further the range of the terms.

Conclusions.  ‘Stress’ and ‘coping’ are terms which are widely used in nursing; their significance has varied overtime and in the literature, and there continues to be lack of clarity over their precise meaning and use.