Stress in health professions students: myth or reality? A review of the existing literature

J Natl Black Nurses Assoc. 2005 Jul;16(1):63-8.


The purpose of this literature review was to determine the extent to which health profession students experience counterproductive stress and to examine the existing gaps in the literature concerning all health profession students and stress. The literature search process included using Eric, Education Abstracts, Psyc INFO, ABIN, WebSpirs Databases, FactSearch, Biological Sciences, International Pharmaceutical Abstracts, MEDLINE, Lexis-Nexis, CINAHL and Registry of Nursing Research. Key articles were identified that documented stress, the causes of stress or "stressors," and psychiatric symptoms as a result of counterproductive stress in the disciplines of medicine, dentistry, nursing, and allied health. Findings from this analysis of the literature indicated that the highest incidence of stress occurred in medical students followed by dental and then nursing students. There was, however, a dearth of studies related to stress in pharmacy students alone, despite the fact that pharmacology requires a rigorous educational process that is similar to that of the other health professions. While it may be argued that pharmacy students may not be experiencing the detrimental levels of stress that affect other medical students, a study by Henning Ey, & Shaw (1998) found a disproportionately high level of distress in pharmacy students. The Henning study also compared the stress levels of medical, dental, nursing, and pharmacy students. This literature review documents that health profession students suffer from high levels of stress during their training. A comprehensive list of "stressors" is delineated for the health education profession students. However, there appears to be a lack of emperical evidence with regards to stress and stressors in pharmacy students. Although it can be extrapolated that pharmacy students may be suffering from similar levels of stress, there is a definite need for research in pharmacy students specifically.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional* / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional* / etiology
  • Burnout, Professional* / prevention & control
  • Burnout, Professional* / psychology
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Family / psychology
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Mental Health
  • Occupational Health
  • Peer Group
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Social Support
  • Student Dropouts
  • Students, Health Occupations / psychology*
  • Students, Health Occupations / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Management
  • Workload