Recent RCN Survey Reveals Stress and Ill Health Common Amongst Nurses

A recent survey undertaken by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has found that nurses are enduring high levels of stress and ill health due to the ever increasing demands of their work load.  According to the  survey “unprecedented” levels of stress and ill health as a result of staff cuts and overwork were forcing some nurses to choose between their patients well being and their own.

The survey which looked at health, well being and stress amongst RCN members, canvassed the views of over two thousand nursing staff working both within the NHS and the private sector. It found that 82% of those consulted reported continuing to go to work whilst sick themselves as they were concerned about the risk of understaffing in their absence, fearing for their patients safety. Many respondents also felt that patient demands are increasing putting them at risk of verbal or physical violence, in addition they felt that bullying and harassment in the work place was becoming an increasing problem.

Half of those surveyed in the “Beyond Breaking  Point” survey  also said that their stress levels had increased significantly in the past twelve months citing staff shortages, long hours, fatigue from shift working as well as not managing to get the number of breaks or length of break they need all contributing to this. Nursing Staff mentioned that they face a wide range of issues that get in the way of being able to provide the high level of care that would like to. Further frustrations were also identified with the level of paperwork, the emphasis on targets and a general lack of equipment and resource in the work place, whilst feeling unsupported and detached from the changes being implemented around them. Dr Carter the RCNs chief executive said: “Individual nurses are clearly going the extra mile to make sure the job is done. However, the risk of burnout is very real, and very widespread,”

The RCN believe that the ever-increasing demands upon the health service’s resources, coupled with a slow down in funding and job cuts has put a serious strain on the nursing profession. As a result of the findings of the survey they have recommended that those involved in providing, regulating and commissioning services set clearly defined standards and adopt mandatory staffing levels and they have confirmed their commitment to making this happen.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Recent reports have shown clearly that we need safe numbers on wards and a supportive culture in the NHS. We have already introduced some major changes, such as a chief inspector [of hospitals] who will take action on staffing levels. We will announce more on our plans to guide staffing decisions in our full response to the Francis report later this year.”

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