Registered nurses' experiences of daily work, a balance between strain and stimulation: a qualitative study

Karin Hallin, Ella Danielson
International Journal of Nursing Studies 2007, 44 (7): 1221-30

BACKGROUND: The challenges in the health care have given rise to a highly stressful work situation and a more complicated role for registered nurses (RNs). Qualitative studies about daily work as a whole is limited. It is therefore vital for future development of nursing knowledge and nursing education to recurrently investigate RNs' experiences of their ability to grasp and manage their daily work situation and to promote a high quality of care.

AIM: The aim of this study was to describe RNs' experiences of their daily work.

METHODS AND PARTICIPANTS: This follow up study was carried out involving 15 Swedish RNs 6 years after their graduation. Interviews, conducted with conversational strategy, were chosen for the data collection and content analysis was used to handle the interview texts.

RESULTS: The analysis resulted in a main theme 'to balance strain and stimulation', two themes and seven sub-themes. The first theme 'a stressful work situation' consisted of the sub-themes: 'to meet all demands', 'to be insufficient', 'to be unsure of oneself', and 'too little contact with patient'. The second theme 'a stimulating work situation' consisted of the sub-themes: 'to encounter patients and health care staff is enriching', 'to have the situation under control', and 'to have the skills necessary to be independent'. A pattern emerged throughout the themes, which showed that due to the increasing number of patients RNs' capacity for management, prioritising and planning out of team work, and performing exacting documentation diminished.

CONCLUSION: The RNs' daily work has been illustrated as a scale of balance that oscillated between strain and stimulation; an oscillation towards strain could lead to a vicious circle. The RNs need support from the start through nursing education and continuously in profession. This is a crucial issue for nursing education and health care sector.

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