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Background: The ongoing structural changes in workplaces coupled with the fast pace of modern technology, population surge and competition among some public and private universities have brought about a lot of stress among staff in the various tertiary institution, especially in developing countries. Most studies have focused on stress among the teaching staff with little attention on the Student Nurses. This study, therefore, investigated stress and coping strategies among Student Nurses at the university teaching hospital in the University of Nigeria.

Method: A cross-sectional design was employed using a quantitative method. A sample size of 214 Student Nurses was used. A structured questionnaire was self-administered mostly to gather the data. This was measured on a five-point Likert scale. Categorical data were expressed using frequency percentages and Chi-square was used to determine the association between variables. Continuous data were expressed as means standard deviation and a t-test was done to compare differences in means.

Results: The results showed that 173(80.8%) of the Student Nurses perceived stress moderately. The first three sources of stress ranked highest included dealing with several pressing problems at once; finding that rewards are not based on performance and having inadequate personnel or equipment to respond in an emergency. The Student Nurses best coping strategies for stress were to increase effort to make things work, pray or find faith in God or one religion and to make a plan of action and follow it.

Conclusion: The findings of this study revealed that 80.8% of the Student Nurses perceived stress moderately and this is associated with their educational level. They face a wide range of sources of stress and they find coping strategies to overcome their issue concerning stress though they use only 13 out of the 21-item coping strategies on the mean of 2.71.



1.0 Background of the study

Stress-related matters have become a worldwide issue lately (Spector, 2002). In most workplaces, stress related to work is a major problem and is having an undesirable effect on employees (Van der Hek & Plomp, 1997). It is an increasingly critical issue for workers, employers and government as a whole (Le Fevre, Matheny, & Kolt, 2003). Equally important is the job-related stress experienced by university staff. According to studies done around the world, stress is on the ascendency and it is frightening (Gillespie, Walsh, Winefield, Dua, & Stough, 2001). In developed countries like UK, New Zealand and Australia, the global economic downturn has led to a notable fall in government sponsorship of public universities. This has obviously led to some increased pressure among university staff since there is the need to work extra to rake in more resources (Fisher, 1994; Winefield, 2000). However, in developing countries like Nigeria where resources to the various public universities are limited there is the need to investigate the impact of this limited resource on the staff of the various public universities.

Mechanic & Volkart (1961) noted social and interpersonal stress as a form of illness and concluded that, in the general population, people who are trying to adapt to such difficult life situations are the adult population who exhibit the major part of the illnesses occurring and the majority of the university staff are within this adult population group. A study by Jins & Radhakrishnan (2013) reported most doctors are of the view that, when it comes to physical illness in relation to stress, 50% to 70% are unhealthy. In the same way, the majority of the Student Nurses in the University of Nigeria work on vacations and are not exempted. One basic fact about stress is that it is a mental disorder and fall under anxiety. In line with a study done by  Quick & Quick (1984), it, however, showed that gradual unrelenting stress may harm the body or mind with age, cause nervous system breakdowns or heart failure.

According to Selye (1956), the workplace contributes greatly to stressors usually known as job stressors and therefore there is also the likelihood the university environment also possesses some level of stress to its staff.

Selye (1956) also believed that perceived stressful works for instance are highly repetitive and boring and work that requires long periods of attention. Under work conditions, there are numerous ways individuals exhibit stress. Some of these are frequent medical visits, absenteeism, anxiety, alcoholism, high turnover rate, poor morale, accidents, low-quality work (Spector, 2002). Stress is a major problem undoubtedly and contributes negatively to life meanwhile not all stress is necessarily bad. Moreover, many workers are not knowledgeable about the fact that stress is a very natural and important part of life (O Donovan, Doody, & Lyons, 2013; Quinn, 2000). Others only look at stress on the negative aspect of life and think they understand it (Balcombe, Barnard, & Sandusky, 2004; O Donovan et al., 2013; Fernando, 2010).

The university is tasked with the duty of training, education and research, however, the development of knowledge and improvement is a role played by the Student Nurses of the University. It is however well noted that, occupational stress levels are high among the Student Nurses and if this is left unattended to and measures not put in place to cope with it, it will weaken the quality, creativity and production of employee’s work, at the same time the health of the worker’s and morale (Calabrese, Kling, & Gold, 1987; Everly & Lating, 2012; Nowack, 1989; Matteson & Ivancevich, 1987; Terry, Tonge, & Callan, 1995).

Stress is usually believed to be part of our everyday life and though inevitable, sometimes become bad when the body is not allowed time enough to recuperate (Jins & Radhakrishnan, 2013). There is a need to be concerned and promote the well-being and health of the people who work, in order to decrease harmful effects on the individuals and the outcome of production  (Carr, Kelley, Keaton, & Albrecht, 2011).

Individuals who are stressed learn to cope in various ways. Thus, stress can be managed and not simply done away with. However, the stress of daily life makes people cope in a way from a perspective that includes the interconnections between home and works with a substantial range of diverse viewpoints across the world (Datta et al., 2007). In terms of coping strategies, Thoits (1995) points out that, when people are faced with major life events, they cope naturally using various tactics.  It is expected that people with high self-esteem or perceived control would use more active problem-focused coping responses and people with low self-esteem or perceived control should predict more passive or avoidant emotion-focused coping responses. It should however be noted that coping strategies, supportive systems and personality styles are characteristics of individuals that can influence stress level and coping when it has to be determined (Cooper & Marshall, 1978).

In Nigeria, it has been found out in recent times that, individual workers spend a long time working to enable them to meet their needs in life and are therefore prone to experiencing stress which comes with some health challenges (Akussah, Dzandu, & Osei-Adu, 2012). According to Akussah et al., (2012) stress among workers contributes to a high rate of turnover, absenteeism and workdays lost which has cost implications for many organizations. Moreover, performance is also affected by stress, apart from the individual’s health. In the case of the University of Nigeria, the Student Nurses works tirelessly while school is in session, during vacation, reopening of school, admission and registration to accomplish the core function of the university. This can go a long way to cause stress among the Student Nurses if measures are not put in place.


1.1 Statement of the problem

Occupational stress has been acknowledged by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be a global epidemic (Avey, Luthans, & Jensen, 2009). Occupational stress is however seen as an alarming issue and at the same time on the increase among university workers as indicated by the world report (Gillespie et al., 2001). It is a part of everyday life and everybody experiences it (Quinn, 2000). Also, many workers are not knowledgeable about the fact that stress is very natural and an important part of life (O Donovan et al., 2013). However, some people, are unable to cope with their stresses whiles others also cope effectively (Iqbal & Kokash, 2011; Jins & Radhakrishnan, 2013). Moreover, too many unresolved problems associated with the stress affects us negatively and cause problems ranging from morbidity to mortality  (Siegrist, 1998).  Most studies on stress in Nigeria have focused on the banking sector, Port and harbour and other sectors of the economy. Even in the tertiary institutions, the focus has always been on the lecturers with the Student Nurses being ignored. However, stress is a problem that exists among workers in general and the Student Nurses in the University of Nigeria are not exempted. These Student Nurses in the university have been employed in various units at the university teaching hospital and are faced with heavy workloads, routine and boring jobs. The issue of unfair payment systems coupled with low reward systems tends to affect their physical and psychological abilities to work effectively to meet expected demands. Ultimately, productivity and turnover of the organisation are affected. The study, therefore, assesses the level of stress and also identifies the sources of stress experienced by the Student Nurses at the University of Nigeria and find the coping strategies they employ in dealing with these stresses.

1.2 Justification of the study

In developing countries like Nigeria which is on its path to attaining a middle-income status emphasis on quality education cannot be overlooked. To achieve this, both teaching and Student Nurses may need a sound and healthy being and environment to work. Thus the effort of people with little or no stress can make this possible. Stress is part of our daily lives and it is inevitable. However both workers and organizations, still need to manage the stress and move on with their lives because stress is on the condition that the individual is able to cope with it. Stress is a state and not an illness and when not managed properly it is manifested in some of the following ways: frequent medical visits, absenteeism, the persistent attitude of lethargy, low quality work, accidents, work stoppage to mention a few.

The Student Nurses at the University of Nigeria are to play a role in the economic growth of Nigeria. However, indubitable stress exists among them. Many studies on stress and coping strategies have been done among lecturers in other universities in and out of Nigeria with very little among the Student Nurses of these universities. This research will therefore highlight stress among Student Nurses in the University of Nigeria and help build strategies to cope with these challenges. The opportunity to assess the level of perception and investigate the sources of stress among Student Nurses and the coping strategies will help identify and reduce the problem of stress. Recommendations and findings from the study could be useful in awareness creation about stress and its sources among the Student Nurses in the University of Nigeria and also help improve their occupational health and stress management.


1.3 Research questions

  • What is the level of perception of stress among the Student Nurses at the university teaching hospital in the University of Nigeria?
  • What are the sources of stress among Student Nurses at the university teaching hospital in the University of Nigeria?
  • How does the University of Nigeria Student Nurses at the university teaching hospital cope with stress?

1.4 Objectives of the study

1.4.1 General objective

To investigate stress and coping strategies among Student Nurses at the university teaching hospital in the University of Nigeria.

 1.4.2 Specific objectives

  • To assess the level of perception of stress among Student Nurses at the university teaching hospital in the University of Nigeria.
  • To identify the sources of stress among Student Nurses at the university teaching hospital in the University of Nigeria.
  • To find out the coping strategies among Student Nurses at the university teaching hospital in the University of Nigeria.

1.5 Hypotheses

  • Hypothesis 1 There is no significant relationship between respondents’ level of education and perceived stress level.
  • Hypothesis 2 There is no significant difference in the work stress level of male and female Student Nurses at the university teaching hospital.
  • Hypothesis 3 There is no significant difference between the way males and females cope with stress at the university teaching hospital in the University of Nigeria.

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