• clinical education;
  • clinical placements;
  • nursing education;
  • nursing students;
  • risk factors;
  • stress

Aims and objectives

To describe nursing students' experience of stress during clinical practice and evaluate the risk of stress in relation to the clinical setting characteristics and the organisation of the clinical education.


Stress during clinical practice is well documented, but there is a lack of knowledge concerning whether the clinical setting characteristics and the organisation of the education make a difference.


A cross-sectional study with evaluative design.


Data were collected by means of a numerical rating scale for the assessment of stress and questions about the clinical setting characteristics and the organisation of the education. One hundred and eighty-four students who had completed their final year on the nursing programme at three universities in Sweden were included.


Nearly half of the students (43%) experienced high level of stress during clinical practice. Measured by decision in the tree analysis, the absolute risk of stress was 57% in students with placements in hospital departments, as compared to 13% in students with placements in other clinical settings. The risk of stress increased to 71% if the students with placement in a hospital took the national clinical final examination. Performance of practice in a hospital department overcrowded with patients was also associated with increased risk of stress. The organisation of supervision and number of students at the clinical placement had an effect on the experience of stress, but did not prove to be risk factors in the analysis.


The risk of stress in nursing students during their clinical practice differs depending on clinical setting characteristics. The taking of the national clinical final examination could be a source of stress, but this requires further investigation.

Relevance to clinical practice

It is important that supervisors are aware that students in hospital departments overcrowded with patients are at risk of stress and may have increased need of support.