Nursing Alumnae, Faculty Author Article on Student Stress

DECEMBER 18, 2012 - A new article by Georgetown University nursing alumnae and faculty members examines the role faculty members can play to support students who are under stress.

The piece, “Perceived Stress and Social Support in Undergraduate Nursing Students’ Educational Experiences,” appeared online Dec. 13 in Nurse Education Today.

Authors from the School of Nursing & Health Studies include Kristen L. Reeve (NHS’12), RN, Catherine J. Shumaker (NHS’12), RN, Edilma L. Yearwood, PhD, PMHCNS, BC, FAAN, associate professor of nursing, Joan Burggraf Riley (NHS'76, G'97), MS, MSN, FNP-BC, FAAN, assistant professor of human science and nursing, and Nancy Crowell, PhD.

High Levels of Stress

“Nursing students experience high levels of stress,” the authors write. “As senior level traditional nursing students and their faculty, we are aware of the extremely high level of stress students experience and the diversity of responses used to cope with stress. We are concerned about how the stress experience of undergraduates will impact their future careers as nurses.”

The authors set out to identify the stress experience among baccalaureate nursing students at a private university, as well as understand their usage of social support to cope. Study participants included 107 traditional and second degree students.

Study participants reported high levels of anxiety, worry, and depression in response to stress, which resulted in feelings of rejection and inadequacy. They also were less likely to use faculty for support as opposed to reliance on peers and family members.

“Second degree students and traditional students differ in their level of alcohol consumption with traditional students more likely to drink heavily than second degree students,” they found. “In addition, traditional students are more likely to use fellow nursing students and other friends as social support, whereas second degree students rely more on their spouse/significant other.”

Potential Impact

The authors concluded that faculty members have a significant role to play in helping students.

“Students' high levels of maladaptive reactions to stress should encourage educators to help students develop positive coping strategies,” they write. “Educators have the potential to impact the development of their students as they transition into nurses capable of handling the rigors of the profession.”

Prior to their graduation in May, Reeve and Shumaker – working under the mentorship of Riley and Yearwood – won second place for their related research poster, "Perceived Stress and Social Support in Undergraduate Nursing Students," at the International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses conference, held March 27-31, in Atlanta.

The alumnae, who as students participated in the Georgetown Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (GUROP), were the only undergraduates presenting at that poster session.

By Bill Cessato