Stressed Nurses Dehumanize Patients to Cope, Says New Research

Italian study analyzes what it takes for nurses to remain committed to their job

Nursing isn't all smiles and candy stripes, in fact it's a very stressful job Corbis

With daily dealings of life and death, nursing is a stressful job, and nurses, espeically in younger nurses, risk burning out. How do successful nurses cope? An Italian study found that nurses sometimes think of their patients as less than human to manage all of the job stress that comes at them.

As Research Digest explains:

Nurses who viewed their patients as less human (in terms of attributing to them fewer uniquely human traits, and more shared human/animal traits) reported experiencing less stress. This was especially true for nurses who were more emotionally attached to their employer, the hospital, and to their patients.

This might seem backwards, but "it is precisely those nurses who are more devoted to their work and their patients, who likely need to use the strategy of dehumanisation to cope" with job stress, says Research Digest. How people experience stress varies, and stress in and of itself "is not inherently deleterious," writes Bonnie M. Jennings in Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses. And if it means experienced nurses can stick with their jobs, patients, in the end, benefit.

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