An Assessment of Stress Experienced by Students in a Prepharmacy Curriculum

Article excerpt

This study evaluated stress levels experienced by students in a prepharmacy curriculum. A survey was used to evaluate perceived levels of stress, factors that contribute to stress, and mechanisms used to cope with stress. Participants were first year students enrolled in a Cooperative Pharmacy Program. Data were collected using an individual interview that consisted of both a demographic and stress questionnaire. The questionnaire included items regarding perceived stress levels and methods used to reduce stress, factors that contribute to stress, and level of support from family, friends, and faculty. Students rated stress to be average or above average; yet only 60% reported using some form of active approach to stress reduction. In addition, 50% reported no awareness of campus resources to help reduce stress levels. Students may benefit from programs that teach coping strategies.


Stress is a factor that persons deal with every day. It can serve as motivation or, in excess, can interfere with daily performance, sleep, appetite, and mood. For these reasons, it has become important to determine stress among students in health professions programs and the factors that most contribute to stress. A literature search using Medline, Lexis Nexis, Science Direct, and Emerald was conducted to determine the available literature on stress in pharmacy students. Results included two studies. The first by Beck and colleagues compared perceived stress and origins of stress among 552 students in nursing, pharmacy, medicine and social work (Beck, 1997). Findings from the questionnaire revealed that nursing students experienced greater perceived levels of stress than most other disciplines. With regard to pharmacy students, the number one contributor of stress was reported to be the amount of class material presented. Second and third stressors were long hours studying and exams/grades, respectively. Because there is limited literature available examining perceived stress in pharmacy students, it warrants mention of the second study, by Ranelli and colleagues, that aimed to capture the use of vitamin and mineral supplements by pharmacy students (Ranelli, 1993). Of 692 students surveyed, 47% reported taking supplements in the recent two weeks. The most common reasons for taking supplements included to compensate for inadequate diet, for colds, to improve energy, and to manage stress.

The majority of research involving perceived stress in health professions students focuses on medical school students. One interview-based study of fifth year medical students found that the most stressful events included preparing for exams, transition periods between school and medical school or medical school and clinical training, and a perceived lack of support from medical school faculty and administrators (Radcliffe, 2003). A second study of 60 first and second year medical school students examined the students' perception of stress and their views on a wellness elective that was offered in the curriculum (Lee, 2001). The recurring themes reported in the students' essays centered around the excessive amount of information they were expected to learn, the continuous sleep deprivation, and feelings of guilt brought on when the students tried to incorporate relaxation time into their routines. It was also reported that most students used emotional venting, relied on support systems of family and friends, and taking time off from class as stress management strategies. Regarding the wellness elective, students reported a new awareness of the importance of personal wellbeing, found relief in knowing that peers were experiencing similar stressors, and learned new stress management strategies.

The University of Adelaide, South Australia, in an attempt to increase the number of rural physicians, has developed programs to recruit rural students into medical school. A survey was conducted to examine how fifth and sixth year rural origin medical students compare to fifth and sixth year urban origin medical students with regard to stress (Durkin, 2003). …