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Soc Sci Med. 2005 Dec;61(12):2482-91. Epub 2005 Jun 20.

A narrative approach to understanding the nursing work environment in Canada.

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CIHR New Investigator, University of Toronto, Faculty of Nursing, 50 St. George Street, Toronto, Ont., Canada M5S 3H4.


Narrative interviews were conducted with hospital nurses participating in a research study designed to provide support and assistance to hospitals as they addressed work life issues for nurses in an attempt to create quality work environments. The eight interviews were conducted in a sample of Canadian hospitals and generated themes relating to an imbalance between the effort that nurses put into their work and rewards attained from it. Seigrist's ((1996) Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 1, 27-41, (2002) In: P.L. Perrewe & D.G. Ganster (Eds.), Historical perspectives on stress and health. Research in Occupational Stress and Well Being (vol. 2). Boston, MA: Jai Press) effort-reward imbalance model was used to frame this study. The nurses' narratives suggest that multiple factors constitute the nurses' work environment and their experiences and perceptions of it. Issues which surfaced repeatedly in the interviews related to changing needs of hospitalized patients in today's health care system and the associated workload, the widespread shortage of nurses, and the imbalance this creates for nursing work. A crucial finding is the extent to which the nurse is impacted by the adequacy of care they are able to provide. These narratives outline the tremendous burden of guilt and the overcommitment that nurses bear when factors in the work environment prevent them from providing complete, quality care. Nurses are experiencing frustration and stress that is impacting their worklife, family and home life, personal health, and possibly patient outcomes.

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