Stress among student nurses in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) was examined in the latest study of the Institute for Population Health (IPH) at Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q).

Published in the journal, Systematic Reviews, the researchers studied all the literature related to stress in nursing students between 2008 and 2021 in 20 MENA countries, including Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

The aim was to understand the epidemiology of stress among student nurses and offer suggestions on how it can be managed.

Understanding the cause of stress

According to WCM-Q Vice Dean Student Affairs and Professor of Population Health Sciences, Dr Ravinder Mamtani, understanding the causes of stress and how student nurses currently deal with it could improve retention rates, clinical and academic performance and boost the overall number of people in the nursing profession. He said that in countries throughout the world, including in the MENA region, there is a shortage of professional nurses.

We know that mental health-related conditions are becoming increasingly prevalent among healthcare professionals worldwide. In nursing students, high stress level has the potential to result in anxiety, depression and burnout, and ultimately this impacts upon their future performance within the profession.

Seven systematic reviews and 42 primary studies were identified, which showed that the primary causes of stress among student nurses undergoing clinical training include assignments, workload and patient care, limited leisure time, low grades, and exams. Individuals tend to manage stress using one of these three strategies – problem-solving, regulation of emotions and venting of emotions.

(From left) Dr Sohaila Cheema and Dr Ravinder Mamtani
Dr Sohaila Cheema (left) and Dr Ravinder Mamtani

According to researchers, the link between the stressors and the coping strategies was unclear. However, they said that there is a clear need to identify effective strategies to reduce excessive stress and increase the use of positive coping strategies.

They also recommended that nursing institutions should establish a strong support system for students and educators to equip them with effective coping strategies.

Reducing stressors

Reducing the number or intensity of stressors through curriculum revision and improving the students’ coping response could also contribute to the reduction of stress levels among students, while nursing faculty should be encouraged to mentor students to develop and strengthen problem-based, rather than emotion-based behaviour, to cope with stress and to provide a supportive clinical learning environment.

Assistant Dean for IPH Dr Sohaila Cheema said that while stress may not always be preventable, it can be effectively managed. Coping with stressors, especially during the clinical training of the nursing curriculum, is essential to maximising knowledge and productivity and prevent burnout among nursing students.

It is in all our interests to have a well-staffed and healthy nursing workforce who are mentally resilient and able to successfully cope with the inevitable stress caused by the profession.

The research paper was titled, Perceived stress, stressors, and coping strategies among nursing students in the Middle East and North Africa: an overview of systematic reviews.

Click on this link to read the full study. 

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