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Nurs Stand. 2009 Jul 8-14;23(44):40-6.

Experiences of stress among nurses in acute mental health settings.

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  • 1Faculty of Health and Social Care, London South Bank University.



To explore occupational stressors, the lived experience of stress and the meaning of this experience for staff working in acute mental health care.


The study adopted a hermeneutic phenomenological approach to ascertain the lived experience of stress among eight qualified staff working in a mental health NHS trust in London. A semi-structured interview format was used. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using an interpretative phenomenological analysis framework.


The occupational experience of nurses in this study indicates that staff are frequently subjected to violent and aggressive behaviour from patients. Such experiences adversely affect patient outcomes in that staff may be reluctant to engage with such individuals because of anxiety about being hurt or experiencing further intimidation. Environmental pressures coupled with high activity levels mean that staff have little time to focus on the task at hand or to plan future activities. As a result they find that when they go home they are unable to switch off from work.


Further investment is needed in acute mental health settings and in staff who work in this area. If this does not happen, it is likely that the quality of service provision will deteriorate and nurses' health and wellbeing will suffer.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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