Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

Stress in the Workplace of Nurses and Midwives in Nigeria

Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

Stress in the Workplace of Nurses and Midwives in Nigeria

Article excerpt

Stress has been described as a force which affects human beings physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. Stress is the body's response to any undesirable mental, physical, emotional, social and environmental demand (Akinboye, 2002). Psychological stress, according to Engel (1960) includes all processes, whether originating in the external environment or within the person which impose a demand or challenge upon the organism, the resolution or handling of which necessitates work or activity of the mental apparatus before any other system is involved or activated.

Yoloye (2003) asserted that stress could be a state of worry resulting from pressure caused by the problem of living. Stress describes how people react to the demand placed upon them causing them to worry and compromising their ability to cope. Researchers have estimated that stress contributes to as many as 80% of all major illnesses including cardiovascular disease, cancer, endocrine and metabolic disease, skin disorders and infectious ailments of all kinds. Many psychiatrists believed that the majority of mental problems are stress-related. Stress is also a common precursor of psychological difficulties such as anxiety and depressions (Odeleye, 1993).

Occupational stress

Occupational stress is referred to as stress in the workplace. The work situation no doubt has certain demands and in the process of meeting these can lead to illness or psychological distress. Sutherland and Cooper (1990) were of the view that occupational stress is a major health problem for both individual employees and organizations and can lead to burnout, illness, labour turnover, absenteeism, poor morale and reduced efficiency and performance. Work related stress is estimated to be the biggest occupational health problem in United Kingdom, after musculoskeletal disorders such as back problems and stress related sickness absences cost an estimated £4 billion annually (Gray, 2000). Current evidence suggests that health care professionals in the UK have higher absence and sickness rates than staff in other sectors (Nuffield Trust, 1998). Wall and colleagues (1997) found that 27% of health care staff suffered serious psychological disturbances, compared with 18% of the general working population. It has also been suggested that stress may be a reason for nurses leaving their jobs (Seecombe & Ball, 1992). Standing (2005) in a study "Karoshi-sick to death of management in difference?" said "Karoshi" is a Japanese word which means "death from overwork" which was initially called occupational sudden death. This has been linked to Japanese Production Management (JPM) known in the West as 'lean production' and the advocates of this new form of management argue that it improves both economic productivity and health. In Japan, the relationship between JPM and sudden death due to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease has been established although it was often undetected and unrecognized until 1970s. Certain occupational groups with exposure to a large number of workplace stressors are found to be at high risk of developing hypertension and ischeamic health disease (IHD).

People who are chronically stressed may develop a coping strategy to 'keep on keeping on'. Where stoicism exists they may not recognize their true state.

"The fact is that a person can be intoxicated with his own stress hormones. I venture to say that this sort of drunkenness has caused much more harm to society than the alcoholic kind (Seyle, 2000, p. 74)".

Seyle draws attention to increased accident proness among stressed individuals, and suggests that people under great stress are more likely to have accidents at work or while driving a car. Also Engel (1960) found out that sudden death may occur under the influence of psychological stress on (among other categories) loss of status or selfesteem.

In North America and Western Europe, a number of studies have demonstrated a significant relationship between high job strain (high production demands and low levels of control and social support) and cardiovascular disease. …

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