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Key occupational stressors in the ED: an international comparison


Background The ED Stressor Scale outlines 15 stressors that are of importance for ED staff. Limited research has identified how commonly such stressors occur, or whether such factors are perceived with similar importance across different hospitals. This study sought to examine the frequency or perceived severity of these 15 stressors using a multicentre cohort of emergency clinicians (nurses and physicians) in EDs in two countries (Australia and Sweden).

Method This was a cross-sectional survey of staff working in eight hospitals in Australia and Sweden. Data were collected between July 2016 and June 2017 (depending on local site approvals) via a printed survey incorporating the 15-item ED stressor scale. The median stress score for each item and the frequency of experiencing each event was reported.

Results Events causing most distress include heavy workload, death or sexual abuse of a child, inability to provide optimum care and workplace violence. Stressors reported most frequently include dealing with high acuity patients, heavy workload and crowding. Violence, workload, inability to provide optimal care, poor professional relations, poor professional development and dealing with high-acuity patients were reported more commonly by Australian staff. Swedish respondents reported more frequent exposure to mass casualty incidents, crisis management and administrative concerns.

Conclusions Workload, inability to provide optimal care, workplace violence and death or sexual abuse of a child were consistently reported as the most distressing events across sites. The frequency with which these occurred differed in Australia and Sweden, likely due to differences in the healthcare systems.

  • staff support
  • psychology

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