Improving nurses' ability to cope with workplace mistreatment crucial to retention, study says

Providing nursing staff with tools to handle workplace stress and mistreatment from colleagues is important in retaining staff and maintaining quality, a new study shows.

Researchers with England's University of East Anglia and the University of Western Ontario in Canada set out to determine whether individual nurses' self-perceived ability to handle stressful events at work reflected their ability to stay resilient. Previous research had shown job stress, along with rude or uncivil comments from coworkers and patients, can lead to burnout and nurses leaving their jobs.

Investigators surveyed nearly 600 Canadian nurses twice over the course of a year to gauge their mental health, intention to leave their jobs, self-efficacy, exhaustion and relationships with coworkers and supervisors.

The study, published last week in Health Care Management Review, found that nurses' beliefs in their own abilities had a “protective” effect against workplace incivility, burnout and turnover. Results also showed that incivility from physicians and fellow nurses caused nurses to report feeling more exhausted and cynical in the second survey, while mistreatment from their supervisors generally did not impact their feelings.

"These results are encouraging because self-efficacy is something that can be supported and promoted by proactive hospital management,” said lead researcher Roberta Fida, Ph.D.

Fida and her team recommended giving nursing staff opportunities and tools to improve their coping strategies for managing workplace stress and incivility. Examples of such opportunities include referring nurses to role models who can provide tips on dealing with stressful situations, as well as verbal encouragement from supervisors and coworkers.