The patient safety implications of work-stress among ED nurses

Jacqueline C. Ingram1, Trudy Dwyer2, Kerry Reid-Searl3, Tania Signal4

1 Central Queensland University, Bruce Highway, Rockhampton, QLD, 4700, j.ingram@cqu.edu.au
2 Central Queensland University, Bruce Highway, Rockhampton, QLD, 4700, t.dwyer@cqu.edu.au
3 Central Queensland University, Bruce Highway, Rockhampton, QLD, 4700, k.reid-searl@cqu.edu.au
4 Central Queensland University, Bruce Highway, Rockhampton, QLD, 4700, t.signal@cqu.edu.au
This presentation explores the potential patient safety implications of work-stress among ED nurses. There is no doubt that burnout, compassion fatigue and secondary traumatic stress are among the greatest threats facing ED nurses in the 21st century. Understandably, the study of work-stress among ED nurses has boomed in recent years. The majority of this research has focussed upon the undeniably common and sometimes catastrophically negative impact it has on ED nurses themselves. The negative sequelae identified by past research ranges from sleep and mood disturbance, physical and mental illness to attrition from nursing. However, there is a growing acknowledgement that work-stress among nurses also manifests in demonstrable risks and negative outcomes for patients. While no ED-specific data is currently available, past research has shown that work-stress among nurses in a variety of settings has been associated with increased morbidity and mortality, reduced quality of care and the abuse or neglect of patients by nurses. Past research has also shown that burnout among nurses is associated with reduced engagement with formal reporting processes for adverse events and near misses. From an institutional perspective this clearly undermines the capacity for the early identification and management of potential risks and the prevention of avoidable harm to patients. Unfortunately, all past research into the patient safety implications of work-stress among nursing staff appears to have been limited to an ill-defined labile notion of stress or the narrow scope of burnout. While universally applicable as a measure of work-stress across diverse occupational groups, burnout does little to account for the novel context, manifestation and consequences of work-stress among professional carers. Therefore with a focus upon professional and ethical conduct, new research has just drawn to a conclusion which applies the more holistic measure of professional quality of life to the ED context and the patient safety implications of work-stress among ED nurses.

Biography

Jacqueline is a PhD candidate through Central Queensland University with almost 20 years ED nursing experience. ¬†Jacqueline has completed undergraduate degrees in Nursing, Health Promotion and Health Education. She received 1st class Honours for her research into the abuse of ED nurses by their clients and colleagues. Jacqueline’s key areas of interest are emergency nursing, workplace violence, professional conduct, ethical decision making and patient’s rights.