The Lasting Impact of Stress on Nurses

Fatigue, exhaustion, and stress are a few of the side effects of today’s extensively demanding work environment. However, the intensity and frequency of such challenges are higher for the frontline medical workers, such as nurses.

The brutal nature of the medical profession and evolving healthcare challenges continue to mount stress and anxiety in nurses. Specifically, low acknowledgment, workload, patient behavior, strict supervision, workplace harassment, low wages, and other personal issues contribute to higher stress levels in nurses.

In addition, constantly handling emerging healthcare emergencies, terminally ill cases, deaths, and the inability to speak their minds facilitate stress buildup even more. As a result, nurses experience wide-ranging and severe consequences on their well-being, patient care, professional performance, and personal life.

In the end, the entire healthcare system bears the burden of sidelined or unmanaged stress and its consequences. The following sections further identify and discuss a few of the long-term impacts of stress on the well-being of nurses and their professions.

  1. Unmotivated towards patients

Research studies identify a positive correlation between stress and nurses’ unmotivated attitude towards their patients. Sometimes, the unwelcoming and disregarding behavior of patients and their families can increase nurses’ mental pressure. There are several causes of such outcomes.

In return, heightened stress can influence nurses to involve in harsh arguments with patients and their attendants. Stressed and emotionally exhausted nurses are less tolerant of non-acknowledging behavior and potentially sensitive comments. Similarly, they are more likely to respond impulsively and illogically.

On the other hand, lack of knowledge and patient handling skills contribute to stress and lack of care towards patients. It is the reason why professional nurses upgrade their academic knowledge during their job.

Advancing education through degree programs like a nursing masters online can enhance a nurse’s aptitude to deal with community, family, patient, and psychiatric issues more adeptly. At present, such programs are becoming a more in-demand option due to their economic, flexible, and accessible nature.

They also enable nurses to embark on the academic journey without disturbing ongoing work and related responsibilities.

In addition, nurses can also execute and utilize acquired academic knowledge in real-time scenarios. Nonetheless, well-informed nurses are less likely to doubt their professional abilities, manage workload, and serve patients effectively. They are also less likely to commit errors and deliver quality and personalized care to patients.

  • Deteriorating mental health

Though short-term stress normalizes over time without impacting mental health negatively, prolonged stress has severe consequences on the psychological health of every individual. It is equally damaging for nursing professionals.

Exhausted and stressed nurses experience irregular sleep patterns and insomnia. Nurses encountering higher and frequent stress are prone to more concerning well-being problems, such as anxiety and depression.

Undeniably, depression is one of the prominent and universal healthcare issues around the world. Survey studies reveal that 60% of critical care nurses exhibit anxiety-related symptoms, and 40% of them deal with depression and its consequences.

The progression of stress and anxiety to depression is notably higher in the critical care nursing staff. It is because nurses are continuously on high alert to look after critically ill patients.

Most of the time, nurses cannot even take necessary breaks and naps during their routine schedules.

As a result, they have higher cortisol levels and lower serotonin levels. These hormones are primarily responsible for triggering stress and normalizing its level in the bloodstreams, respectively. Hence, it is crucial to monitor and manage stress and prevent its health-hazarding consequences.

  • Prone to chronic physical illnesses

Nurses’ routine also involves alarming and unexpected situations, where it is common to experience stress. Stress is a natural mechanism where the human body releases hormones in potentially grave circumstances, such as fight and flight.

Though stress prepares the body to react readily, persistently raised stress level is harmful to the well-being. As such, nurses experiencing stress daily are careless of their dietary requirements. Often, they eat unhealthy junk food to reduce work-related displeasure and anxiety. It is the reason why a growing number of nurses are becoming overweight and obese.

Stress also compromises the functions of the immune system. It is because stress-causing cortisol has an inverse correlation with lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are the body’s main fighting agents against infectious attacks.

In addition, chronic stress is one of the potential causes of hypertension, diabetes, and gastrointestinal complications. These conditions eventually expose nurses to various infections and coronary heart conditions.

Even though stress may not be a life-threatening condition, it can trigger a devastating cycle of several physical health complications.

  • Higher healthcare expenditure

Naturally, frontline healthcare professionals are the first ones to deal with various existing and unpreceded healthcare emergencies. These crises directly impact and increase healthcare challenges for frontline workers.

As a consequence of multifaceted risks and associated stress, nursing staff encounters higher healthcare expenses. It is because stress disrupts and impairs several neurological and physiological processes. The overall impact leads to grave outcomes for psychic and physical health.

The scope and severity of such challenges are even direr during emergencies like the ongoing pandemic. As a result, the entire healthcare system is dealing with direct and indirect stress-related expenditures. Research studies estimate that stressed healthcare workers have approximately 50% more healthcare expenses than unstressed individuals. Similarly, work-related stress contributes to almost 26 billion dollars in treatment costs and raises global healthcare costs to around $190 billion per year.

In addition, stressed and compromised health professionals are more likely to skip work schedules and underperform. Consequently, the outcomes generate lower yields, increase the economic burden and overall healthcare costs.


In the medical field, the nursing staff serves the status of a defensive workforce. It is hard to imagine the diverse functions of the sector without such a resilient and crucial force. However, their job is equally risky and health-compromising.

Thus it is vital to observe stress-causing factors and control their devastating impact on the well-being of nurses. Similarly, prioritizing and administering nurses’ well-being is utterly crucial for the uninterrupted performance of the entire healthcare sector.

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