Mental health nurses' and allied health professionals' perceptions of the role of the Occupational Health Service in the management of work-related stress: how do they self-care?

Authors


J. Gibb
Alliance for Self Care Research
Faculty of Health and Social Care
Garthdee Road
Aberdeen AB10 7QG
UK
E-mail: jennifer.gibb@nhs.net

Abstract

Accessible summary

  • • High rates of stress-related sickness are found in health care professionals, in particular mental health nurses.
  • • This study aimed to identify work-related stress levels in mental health nurses and investigate mental health nurses' and allied health professionals' awareness and knowledge of the service provided by the Occupational Health Service (OHS).
  • • Nurses and allied health professionals found their contact with the OHS to be a supportive experience but they prefer to self-care and refer themselves to the OHS counselling service; they do not wish to involve line management.
  • • Direct patient care is less stressful than the organizational constraints they deal with.
  • • They express a perceived lack of support and some ambiguity around their role especially how it fits with organizational objectives.

Abstract

Higher rates of stress-related sickness are found in health care professionals when compared with other sectors. The annual direct cost of absence to the National Health Service is £1.7 billion. Increased clinical demand, long hours, low staffing and a lack of support from colleagues and management are contributing to absenteeism, somatic complaints and mental health problems. Mental health work is inherently stressful and levels of work stress experienced by mental health nurses are especially high. The study investigated mental health nurses' and allied health professionals' (AHPs) awareness and knowledge of the service provided by the Occupational Health Service (OHS) and identified work-related stress and self-care strategies within these two groups. Nurses and AHP staff employed in mental health services in a Scottish healthboard area were invited to complete an anonymous questionnaire. Results demonstrated that staff found their contact with the OHS to be a positive experience. They considered direct patient care to be less stressful than the organizational constraints they work under, and they reported a lack of support from both their peer groups and management. There should be recognition of the increased stress that hospital-based nurses and AHPs experience. These areas should be scrutinized and reviewed further to support staff within these environments in accordance with organizational objectives.

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