Researcher Wants To Study Emotional Factors In Nursing Profession

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - A researcher at the University of Akron is seeking federal funding to study stress factors that drive nurses out of hospitals.

Rebecca J. Erickson, an associate professor of sociology, appeared before a congressional subcommittee Tuesday seeking $600,000 to fund a study of nursing retention issues.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, arranged for Erickson to speak to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, which he chairs.

"While we know that workload is a problem, what does that really mean to today's nurses?" said Erickson, who also serves as chair-elect of the American Sociological Association's section on the sociology of emotions.

According to projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 1 million new nurses will be needed by 2010.

Compounding the problem, registered nurses have long complained about working conditions -- such things as mandatory overtime, overnight hours and inadequate staffing.

Hospitals employ about 60 percent of the nation's RNs.

Cheryl Peterson, senior policy fellow with the American Nurses Association, said the nation must "retain the experienced nursing work force that we have."

Erickson wants to look at what she calls "emotional labor" -- or what nurses face in creating or suppressing their own feelings.

Nurses, for example, might have to hide their feeling of frustration and act happy with patients even when they're extremely overworked. This stress can contribute to burnout, she said.

"It takes time, it takes energy, it takes effort to care for others' emotions," Erickson said.

If all goes as planned, Erickson will work with nurses from Summa Health System in Akron. Participating RNs would be paid to keep a diary detailing specific incidences during their workday that lead to emotional outcomes, both good and bad. Researchers also would conduct surveys and focus groups.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)