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Nurs Outlook. 2005 Nov-Dec;53(6):291-9.

The consequences of job stress for nurses' health: time for a check-up.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Health, Occupational Health Program, Harvard University School of Public Health, Room 3-098, Landmark Center, 401 Park Drive, PO Box 15697, Boston, MA 02215, USA. emcneely@hohp.harvard.edu

Abstract

The processes and outcomes of nurses' work are described extensively in studies about patient care, nursing education and training, job satisfaction, health care quality and management, and organizational behavior. These studies evaluate the relationship between nurses' behavior and organizational health (ie, productivity) or between nurses' behavior and patient health (ie, medical error). Fewer studies probe the association between the nature of nursing work and the status of nurses' health despite the logical connection between how well nurses feel and how well they perform, or even, whether they discontinue working altogether for health reasons. Yet, for many nurses working in today's health care environment, work is a stressful part of their lives. This article explores the connections between stressful work and nurses' health, especially given the restructuring of their work in the current health care system. The working conditions that give rise to stress and the potential health consequences from it are well described in the general stress literature and summarized herein. Moreover, studies about nurses' work and nurses' health are discussed in light of the limitations for connecting job stress to job changes or health outcomes over time. Current approaches for dealing with nurses' stress, such as the attraction to "Magnetism", may inadvertently impede progress in this area. Recommendations for the future are included.

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