Work stress may be defined as a negative “psychological and physical state that results when the resources of the individual are not sufficient to cope with the demands and pressures of the situation” (Michie, 2002). In 1998 the WHO published a set of guidelines and case studies to promote the concept of the Health Promoting University. This identified that the university could and should play a central role in the promotion of health and well-being to young people. The rise in psychological stress and ill mental health among this cohort over recent years (Hartrey, Denieffe and Wells, 2017) further emphasises the importance of higher education institutions positioned to both promote and support young people’s mental health and well-being. Thus, for example, the European Pact on Mental Health (2008) calls for educational institutions to “Ensure schemes for early intervention throughout the educational system”; “Promote the integration of socio-emotional learning into the curricular” and within the context of the work setting “implement mental health and well-being programmes with risk assessment and prevention programmes for situations that can cause adverse effects on the mental health of workers”.
SSTeMM aims to develop an end-user (which we define as internship student, internship mentor, hosting industry and HEI staff) accessible digital mobile platform of targeted work based education, competency training and in vivo self-reflection learning opportunities to equip students and mentoring workers with the knowledge, skills and competencies to address occupational stressors (both personal and environmental). The focus will be on pedagogy that develops personal skills to build resilience that supports retention; enhance student internship engagement while away from their base HEI and equip such students with reinforced skills and competency set that will enhance their personal well-being once they have entered the world of full-time employment following graduation/qualification.
To date, within the field of nurse education, issues of stress in the work place for students and how they impact on post qualifying engagement and behaviour have been under-explored and ineffectively addressed at both national and pan-European level. Literature, mostly focused within the UK and Ireland, has focused on describing the experience rather than exploring the impact on post qualifying behaviour, particularly in terms of retention and what is needed in terms of pre-graduate/pre-qualifying training and skills development.
TARGET GROUPS TO BE ADDRESSED
SSTeMM principally aims to improve the skills set of student nurses on work placement to better manage their work related stressors. However, other groups are also targeted. Thus clinical mentors and academic staff are targeted with regards to provision of training materials as well as, we would posit, benefit themselves from these training materials in terms of managing their own stress. Employers and HEIs are also target groups for consultative development and beneficiaries viz. retention and reduced absence. Policy makers in the fields of health care, education, employment (both national and EU) and employer-representative groups will be targeted in relation to wider issues of student empowerment with regards to stress management. In this context, European agencies such as the European Agency for Safety & Health At Work will have a direct interest in the process and outcomes of the SSTeMM project.
WHY SHOULD THE PROJECT BE CARRIED OUT TRANSNATIONALLY ?
Nursing is one of the most mobile regulated professions in terms of workforce movement across Europe and, indeed, globally. Nursing is also regulated at both national as well as European level in terms of equivalency with regards to recognition of training and license to practice between EU states. As such, this would suggest a pan-European co-operation would be both warranted, desirable and would translate into both European and national domains in terms of curricula change. In this context, SSTeMM will address what is recognised as a significant cost to the health and well-being of the population of the European Union and a cost to its economy, while demonstrably supporting EU policy initiatives such as “Engaging, Connecting and Empowering young people: a new EU Youth Strategy” (European Commission, 2018). Through collaborative transnational collaboration, sharing of knowledge and experience between HEIs and business partners SSTeMM will build a connected approach that is inclusive of the perspectives of the clinical/business sector in the participating countries to address skills deficits in the management of occupational stress among this student cohort and their workplace mentors. In this context its results will generalise to the wider higher education sector across the EU by identifying approaches that help in the retention of students and contribute to a more supportive pan-European higher education.