“An exploration of the experiences of emergency nurses’ workplace stressors and their coping strategies”

Miss Oluwadunsin Adesina1, Dr Anita De Bellis2, Dr Katrina Breaden3

1 Miss Oluwadunsin Adesina, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, Flinders University, GPO BOX 2100, ADELAIDE  SA  5001, Australia, ades0007@flinders.edu.au
2 Dr Anita De Bellis, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, Flinders University, GPO BOX 2100, ADELAIDE  SA  5001, Australia
3 Katrina Breaden, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, Flinders University, GPO BOX 2100, ADELAIDE  SA  5001


The challenges and stressors that nurses face in their workplaces can differ from one nursing specialty to another depending on the context of their work. A considerable amount of research has examined stress and coping in general; however, little of this has focused on emergency nurses, who are continually exposed to a wide range of workplace stressors in their daily nursing practice. Failure on the part of emergency nurses to adequately cope with and resolve these stressors can lead to compassion fatigue, burnout, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a high attrition rate among emergency nurses.

The aim of the study was to explore emergency nurses’ experiences of stress in their workplace and the coping strategies they use to manage these stresses. Based on the review of the literature, Interpretive Description (ID) was adopted and used for the purposes of answering the research question. The study was conducted on willing emergency nurses who were members of the College of Emergency Nurses Australasia (CENA), with data collected through audiotaped semi-structured interviews via telephone. Ten participants answered questions about their experiences of stress, how they were affected by stress and the coping strategies they used to cope with stress. Five themes emerged with a number of associated subthemes.

The findings showed that emergency nurses enjoyed emergency nursing because of patient presentation, the team work, providing and delivering patient care and the satisfaction they derived from being an emergency nurse. Regarding the causes of stress for emergency nurses, these were found to include work conditions, violence and aggression, death and dying and interpersonal relationships. The third theme revealed the physiological and physical effects of stress in association with the effects of workplace stress on emergency nurses’ professional and personal life.

To cope with their workplace stresses, emergency nurses used debriefing as an important strategy and their perceived level of support from their organisation contributed to how they coped with stress. Emergency nurses also relied on their personal coping mechanisms.  The last theme revealed that emergency nurses’ personalities and use of a cognitive approach made a substantial difference to how they were affected by and coped with workplace stress.

The discussion interpreted the findings in relation to the research question. The discussion centred around the contemporary stresses of emergency nurses,  compassion fatigue being a result of workplace stress, the importance of coping with stress, and resilience as an attribute of coping. Finally, the implications of the findings for emergency nurses, practice and management were outlined and recommendations were made for education and further research.


My Name is Oluwadunsin (Dunsin) Adesina. I graduated from Flinders University Adelaide and I am a registered nurses that works at the Royal Adelaide Hospital I have been an emergency nurse for six years. I decided to pursue an Honours Degree after my graduation from Flinders University and my research question was based on my interest in knowing what emergency nurses found stressful and their coping strategies for these stressors.I have a graduate diploma in emergency nursing and I have been involved in the resuscitation team of the Royal Adelaide Hospital.  i have also had the opportunity to be a leadership position at work and being a member of a very multi-disciplinary team.