• primary headache;
  • stress at work;
  • nursing staff

Background.—Stress, one of the most commonly identified triggers for primary headache in the workplace, usually leads to inefficient work during attacks. Stress-related primary headaches in the nursing staff of hospitals have received little attention.

Objective.—To realize the association between stress and headache, and the means of coping with this kind of headache.

Methods.—A cross-sectional, hospital-based study using a semi-structured questionnaire was administered to 900 nursing staffers in a tertiary medical center in southern Taiwan. Thirty-two items, including basic information, headache- and stress-related questions, work satisfaction, and coping strategies were measured. Headache sufferers with either migraine or episodic tension headache (attacks <15 days per month) based on International Headache Society (IHS) criteria were enrolled for analysis. The Student's t-test, one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), and chi-square test were used for statistical analysis.

Results.—Three hundred eighty-six out of 779 responders (49.6%) had experienced primary headaches in the previous year, and 374 (48.1%) had had episodic-type headaches (<15 days/month). A careful neurological interview of the latter group revealed that 222 (28.5%) had migraine, 104 (13.4%) had tension headache, 37 (4.8%) had mixed migraine and tension headache, and 11 (1.4%) had other causes of headache. There were no demographic differences between the sufferers and nonsufferers, although a statistically significant difference was noted in self-reported sources of stress (individual P values ranged from .021 to < .001). Headache sufferers had more stress at work than non-headache sufferers (P < .001). The youngest and least experienced of the nursing staff, the unmarried, and those with a lower level of education had a higher level of stress. The methods used to deal with headaches were sleep, taking medicine, taking a rest, visiting the doctor, and seeking psychological help. Nurses commonly used acetaminophen (panadol-500 mg) to relieve their pain.

Conclusion.—These results indicate that stress at work is associated with primary headaches among nursing staff, and that nurses rarely seek help in the beginning. Therefore, nursing staff education aimed at ameliorating the stress and coping with the headaches, thus allowing the nurses to provide better patient care, may be warranted.