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Title: Personal biography and stress in mental health nurses : a comparison of two different settings
Author: Little, Robert Matthew
ISNI:       0000 0001 3611 039X
Awarding Body: University of Central Lancashire
Current Institution: University of Central Lancashire
Date of Award: 2009
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When asked mental health nurses consistently report relatively high levels of occupational stress, these levels of occupational stress are seen as affecting staff retention and also as creating a barrier to the ongoing improvement programme in mental health care. Previous research suggests that the 'critical factors' in the nurses' ability to cope with occupational stress are the personality variables that are considered to have consistency over the individual's biographical history and which are commonly described as dispositions or traits. Researchers who have examined this area argue that the limits implicit in the dominant approach to studying this area (selfreport questionnaires) are now restricting understanding of these personality variables and there are repeated calls for studies to use more sophisticated methods of data collection and analysis. Using an in-depth method of interviewing this study encouraged nurses in two radically contrasting settings (a therapeutic community and an acute admissions ward) to describe their experiences of stress both within the work environment and from the wider context of their biographical history. The aim of this biographical and comparative approach was twofold: firstly to examine whether the individual's biographical history affected their experiences of occupational stress, and secondly to explore the contrasting occupational environments from the individual's perspective with the aim of exploring whether the individual's experience of the institutional 'culture' affected their experiences of stress. Within the therapeutic community the psychodynamic model (the culturally sanctioned discourse) that underpinned the approach to treatment was almost exclusively drawn on by staff as an explanation for personal and professional 'stressful' experiences. This study indicates that this 'meaningful' explanation of suffering corresponds to the meaning orientated nature of the staff s biographical narratives. This meaningful explanation of suffering appeared acceptable to staff with many of the staff within this setting remaining at the therapeutic community for long periods. Within the acute ward whilst there was still some indication that the biographical narratives were meaning orientated there was less engagement with the culturally sanctioned explanation of mental suffering. The interviewee's narratives suggest that the staff coped with stress through [tacitly] conceiving of this setting as somewhere they would remain for a limited period of time. It is suggested that this tacit assumption is generalisable to other acute wards as a pattern of high staff turnover appears commonplace. These potentially generalisable findings have significant implications for the occupational stress experienced by mental health nurses and potentially wider implications for nursing practice: Firstly, management of stress in acute settings appears to demand a long-term view that both acknowledges the individual's biographical history and accommodates how nurses are socialised to view the professional role. Secondly, the plan to develop expert practitioners in the acute sector demands recognition that mental health nursing draws on the individual's 'meaning' based understanding of what mental illness represents as this meaningful understanding appears to contribute significantly to the individual's commitment to their professional position.
Supervisor: Froggett, Lynn Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: B700 - Nursing