The weekend matters: exploring when and how nurses best recover from work stress


A. Drach-Zahavy: e-mail:


drach-zahavy a. & marzuq n. (2013) The weekend matters: exploring when and how nurses best recover from work stress. Journal of Advanced Nursing69(3), 578–589. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2012.06033.x


Aim.  This article is a report of a comparative study examining nurses’ levels of emotional exhaustion and vigour after a short respite taken on weekends as compared with two midweek days taken off.

Background.  Recovery from work stress – a respite experience that generates replenishing of psychological and physical resources that have been depleted by meeting effortful demands – is crucial to offset future deleterious consequences to mental and physical health.

Design.  Longitudinal panel survey.

Method.  Nurses (= 400) completed questionnaires during 2010–2011 on three occasions: (1) Before the respite (weekend or midweek), we measured the timing of the respite and emotional exhaustion and vigour; (2) during the respite we measured respite experiences; and (3) after the respite we re-measured emotional exhaustion and vigour.

Results.  Nurses’ emotional exhaustion was significantly lower and their vigour significantly higher after a short weekend respite than after two-midweek-days taken off. Specific experiences during the respite can compensate for the inferior recovery process on weekdays compared with weekends: emotional exhaustion levels of nurses who experienced high relaxation during their respite did not differ whether the respite was at the midweek or weekend. Vigour levels of nurses who experienced control during their respite did not differ whether their respite was midweek or at the weekend.

Conclusions.  Insights gained on leisure experiences carry important practical implications for nurses and nursing managers. Staff nurses and their managers should be educated in how to recover from work during leisure time, including preferring weekend on midweek respites and engagement in relaxation and control experiences as much as possible.