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This article examines stressful episodes reported by student nurses (N = 150) interviewed during the early stages of their training at two general hospitals. The approach is qualitative rather than empirical, and the paper focuses on how students perceive and interpret the day-to-day demands and frustrations they encounter in the course of their work in the wards. The episodes were classified into six major content areas. Three of these (the care of dying patients; interpersonal conflicts with other nurses; and insecurity about professional skills and competence) were found to account for two-thirds of the total episodes reported. The types of episodes are discussed in the context of literature findings relating to nursing stress. Underlying factors common to many episodes were the inadequate support and guidance given by senior nurses and clinical tutors, coupled with the students' lack of experience and the demanding nature of the ward environment. Ways in which adverse effects of stress among student nurses might be alleviated, including improving communication skills, enhancing social support, and the use of stress management techniques, are discussed in the light of this material.


Journal article


Soc Sci Med

Publication Date





945 - 953


Attitude to Death, Clinical Competence, Communication, Education, Nursing, Guilt, Humans, Job Satisfaction, Nurse-Patient Relations, Stress, Psychological