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The Emotional Cost of Nursing

23 June 2009 Leicester, University of

What are the costs of caring? A new project in the School of Psychology explores nurses’ experience of distress and aims to determine if empathy with patients is associated with traumatic experience in nurses.

Researcher Jenny Watts said nurses can develop symptoms such as flashbacks, sleeping difficulty and emotional detachment which can have serious consequences for both their personal and professional lives.

She will be presenting her research at the Festival of Postgraduate Research which is taking place on Thursday 25th June in the Belvoir Suite, Charles Wilson Building at the University of Leicester between 11.30am and 1pm.

Miss Watts said: “What is apparent is that nurses who identify with the patient and experience empathy appear to be most vulnerable to distress.

“Nursing is a diverse specialty and patient condition and contact will vary greatly between different wards. Currently the research focuses upon surgery, accident and emergency and children’s wards.

“Nurses caring for patients with dementia and other age related illnesses have shown anxiety and depression following patient deterioration and death.

“Further knowledge about nurse distress is required to shape interventions, reduce staff turnover, improve morale and maintain a high quality of care.

“This knowledge will be applied to shape suitable prevention and intervention strategies.”

Miss Watts added that with a growing number of patients aged over 70, it was important to ensure that the nursing force remains healthy, compassionate and able to provide high quality care for older adults,

  • Miss Watts studied BSc psychology at the University of Stirling, in Scotland. After work experience gained within the National Health Service and Social Services she became intrigued by positive psychology and specifically research aiming to enhance the wellbeing of health professionals.

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