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The frequency and perceived effectiveness of coping strategies used by registered nurses returning to university Thompson, Mary Catherine


This study examines the stress and coping behaviors of registered nurses returning to school to pursue a baccalaureate degree in nursing (returning RNs). The sample included 72 volunteers who were returning RNs currently enrolled in a nursing program. Data were collected using the Ways of Coping Checklist and the Personal Strain Questionnaire which assessed the causes of stress related to attending school/ the use of specific coping behaviors, and the effectiveness of those coping behaviors in reducing stress. The major sources of stress included: 1. school-related stressors such as lack of academic skills and concerns with the program and faculty, 2. social and domestic concerns, 3. lack of time, and 4. lack of money. The study concludes that coping strategies used most frequently were also rated as most effective. These coping strategies dealt directly with the stressor or the emotional reaction to it by problem-solving or seeking social support. Coping strategies seldom used and rated as ineffective, on the other hand, avoided dealing with the stressor, for example, by the use of wishful thinking. After an initial term at school, returning RNs, who had not been students for at least two years, had no more distress than returning RNs who had attended school recently. Returning RNs In the fourth year of the program were less stressed by school-specific stressors such as study skills and managing school assignments than were students in the third year. This implies that these students learn to cope with stressors, a process which could perhaps be facilitated through an orientation program. In summary, the majority of returning RNs cope quite well in the present structure by using the strategies of problem-solving and seeking social support. Implications for nursing education are discussed and areas for further research are identified.

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