Prof Derek Johnston

Stress in health professions: prevalence, determinants and consequences

Nursing is often stressful and associated with burnout, intention to leave the profession and errors and safety violations. It is important to study stress in nurses both to increase our understanding of the processes that determine stress, because ofthe effects of stress on the nurse’s health and because of the impact stressed nurses may have on the delivery of health care. I will describe two studies of stress in nurses using ecological momentary assessment to measure stress related processes in realtime in ward nurses and in nurses advising the public in Scotland’s out of hours telephone medical helpline (NHS24). I will explore the power of the two mainmodels of occupation stress (Karasek’s Demand Control model and Siegrist’s Effort Reward Imbalance model) to predict variations in affect when at work, the effects of critical clinical incidents on affect, the physiological effects of stressful work experiences and some of the aspects of nursing that are associated with increased stress and physiological arousal.

Derek Johnston is Emeritus Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Aberdeen.  He graduated in psychology from the University of Aberdeen, obtained his PhD from the University of Hull and has worked at the Universities of Oxford, London, St Andrews and Aberdeen.  His early work was on behavioural treatments for anxiety disorders (he was Chair of the then British Association for Behavioural Psychotherapy, now Cognitive and Behavioural Psychotherapy) but for the last 25 years he has focussed primarily on issues in health psychology.  He has published on cardiac reactivity in the aetiology of heart disease and psychological aspects of hypertension, cardiac rehabilitation, and physical activity in both healthy older people and those with congestive heart failure.  Recently much of his research has been on stress in health professions, primarily nurses, using real time measures of stress, behaviour and physiological arousal to look at the determinants and effects of occupational stress.  He has been Chair of the Division of Health Psychology of the British Psychology Society and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

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