Interpersonal stress in nursing: The development of the Difficult Patient Stress Scale

Year: 1994

Author: Santamaria, Nick

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Stress in nursing has been well documented in the literature for more than 30 years, yet it remains a poorly understood problem by nurse educators; this is due in part to theoretical and methodological constraints to the investigation of this phenomenon and the multi- factorial nature of stress. This situation presents educators with the dilemma of preparing nurses to practise in an environment in which the scope, severity and impact of stressors is largely unknown.

This paper describes the development of the Difficult Patient Stress Scale (DPSS), an instrument designed to determine the stress experienced by nurses when confronted by interpersonal conflict in patient care. The DPSS is based on the theoretical conceptualisation of stress proposed by Delongis, Lazarus and Folkman (1988) and the personality theory of Individual Psychology. The DPSS utilises visual analog scales to measure responses to selected typical, difficult nurse/patient situations. Validity and reliability testing over two years indicates that the DPSS is valid, reliable and suitable for use in the clinical environment. It is proposed that the DPSS may provide a useful instrument for exploring the frequency and impact of interpersonal stressors in nursing and may assist in the development of educational programs to better equip nurses in dealing with interpersonal conflict in their clinical practice.