Reducing occupational stress on remote area nurses

16 February 2011

Reducing occupational stress on remote area nurses
A recent research project involving remote area nurses (RANs) showed that, despite high levels of psychological distress, stress, trauma and emotional exhaustion, they enjoy high levels of work engagement and moderate levels of job satisfaction.
The research project was aimed at reducing and preventing occupational stress for RANs, a close-knit group of professionals who are widely regarded as the backbone of remote area health service delivery to some of the country’s neediest populations. The Centre for Remote Health in Alice Springs invited remote area nurses to participate in the research.
Groups of RANs and health service managers working in remote Indigenous communities in central Australia and in the Top End of the Northern Territory met in discussion groups to consider the results of the national survey. They developed action plans targeting organisational rather than individual changes. These were later workshopped with implementation committees of middle managers.
“Some actions were implemented at this level,” said Sue Lenthall. “Others were referred to a high level reference group which contained senior managers for consideration and implementation. Three cycles of this action were conducted over a 12 month period.”
Ms Lenthall’s paper titled Back from the Edge: Reducing and preventing occupational stress to remote area nursing workforce, is one of a number relating to remote area health and health services to be delivered at the 11th National Rural Health Conference at the Perth Exhibition Convention Centre from 13-16 March.
“Our survey showed that high levels of occupational stress among RANs are contributing to turnover of staff and quality of health service delivery. By employing a bottom-up action research approach, RANs were empowered to contribute to system change to decrease occupational stress.”
Full conference details are on the website at www.ruralhealth.org.au