• empirical research report;
  • focus groups;
  • nursing;
  • nursing education;
  • nursing students;
  • qualitative;
  • stress


Title. Stress and eustress in nursing students

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to identify experiences that led to both distress and eustress and to make recommendations to help students cope with course demands.

Background.  Much of the research on stress in nursing students is quantitative in focus and all draws on their experience of distress, with little attempt to understand experiences of eustress.

Method.  A series of focus groups were carried out with a volunteer sample of final year nursing students (= 16) in the United Kingdom in 2007. The data were thematically analysed.

Findings.  The themes identified were clinical experience, support, learning and teaching experience and course structure. There were experiences within each that were perceived as sources of distress and eustress. Many of the sources of distress concur with earlier findings but they are more likely to be experienced and commented on because the demands of present-day programmes and the profile of many nursing students mean that more effort is invested in meeting educational demands. The experiential learning and patient-care opportunity that placements provided was an important source of eustress.

Conclusion.  Students who coped well drew on effective support networks and adopted a positive, optimistic perspective towards programme issues. Effective educators did not offer more time than those perceived as less effective but seemed more effective at tuning into students’ concerns, showing more empathy and offering clearer guidance.