Stress, coping and burn-out in nursing students

Int J Nurs Stud. 2010 Oct;47(10):1299-309. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2010.02.015. Epub 2010 Mar 31.


Aim: To explore the relationship between sources of stress and psychological burn-out and to consider the moderating and mediating role played sources of stress and different coping resources on burn-out.

Background: Most research exploring sources of stress and coping in nursing students construes stress as psychological distress. Little research has considered those sources of stress likely to enhance well-being and, by implication, learning.

Method: A questionnaire was administered to 171 final year nursing students. Questions were asked which measured sources of stress when rated as likely to contribute to distress (a hassle) and rated as likely to help one achieve (an uplift). Support, control, self-efficacy and coping style were also measured, along with their potential moderating and mediating effect on burn-out.

Findings: The sources of stress likely to lead to distress were more often predictors of well-being than sources of stress likely to lead to positive, eustress states. However, placement experience was an important source of stress likely to lead to eustress. Self-efficacy, dispositional control and support were other important predictors. Avoidance coping was the strongest predictor of burn-out and, even if used only occasionally, it can have an adverse effect on burn-out. Initiatives to promote support and self-efficacy are likely to have the more immediate benefits in enhancing student well-being.

Conclusion: Nurse educators need to consider how course experiences contribute not just to potential distress but to eustress. How educators interact with their students and how they give feedback offers important opportunities to promote self-efficacy and provide valuable support. Peer support is a critical coping resource and can be bolstered through induction and through learning and teaching initiatives.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Burnout, Professional*
  • Humans
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Students, Nursing / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires