Section Four

Occupational Stress and Self-Care Teaching activities and resources

Occupational stress is a major health problem that can lead to burnout, illness, turnover, absenteeism, poor morale and performance (Coetzee, & Klopper, 2010; Nowrouzi et al., 2015). Providing opportunities for nursing students to explicitly explore and discuss occupational stress reactions and explore and practice self-care in curricula increases visibility and awareness of this important issue. It also provides a means to explore professional well-being and strategies to enhance career longevity in specialty nursing areas (i.e., mental health and psychiatric mental health practice) documented to increase the risk of experiencing greater levels of  occupational stress as a result of the therapeutic interpersonal modalities used during interactions with patients over an extended period of time (Edwards & Bernard, 2003; Nowrouzi et al., 2015).

For more information, see Resources in this section.

Teaching and Learning Activities

The following are teaching and learning activities that can be employed in the classroom to further support nurses in the integration of theory, principles and best practices related to occupational stress and self-care.

For Students:

  • Lectures on occupational stress and self-care
  • Small group work
  • Focused discussions
  • Exploration of self-care modalities
  • Reflective journaling—Appendix E
  • Evaluation of mind/body/spirit approaches to health

Strategies to promote self-care in collaboration with students:

  • Consider open-book exams; allow study notes
  • Offer flexible due dates/self-scheduling for assignments
  • Keep summative evaluations to a minimum
  • Offer formative feedback on assignments/exams; provide encouraging comment

Learner Engagement Questions

The following are thought-provoking and engaging learner questions that can be used to further discussions with nursing students regarding occupational stress and self-care. These questions can be used either to stimulate discussion, engage students in critical thinking or be tied to class exercises.

  • What are occupational stress reactions?
  • Identify the individual and organizational factors that may contribute to the experience of burn out and secondary trauma.
  • What does self-care mean to you in the context of your professional identity?
  • How does the literature define self-care?
  • Why is it important for health-care professionals to understand and engage in self-care practices?
  • What are the advantages for health-care professionals and organizations who address occupational stress and workplace mental health practices? Are there any disadvantages?
  • Identify personal care strategies documented in the literature to support personal and professional resilience.
  • What is your coping style?
  • What self-care strategies and techniques do you currently practice?
  • Identify some ways to enhance or improve your current self-care practices.

Evaluation and Self-reflection

The following is a tool that can be used to evaluate students in their understanding and application of occupational stress and self-care:

Completion of self-care plan and reflective activities (i.e., see Self-Care Starter Kit in Resources).