Nurses are focus of incivility study by BGSU doctoral student


  Ashley Guidroz

With enrollments lagging, nursing schools are producing fewer graduates at a time when more are needed to care for an aging population.

But the supply of nursing-school graduates isn’t the only factor contributing to an ongoing shortage. Nurses are also being driven from the profession by burnout and dissatisfaction, as a BGSU study of incivility among nurses shows.

Ashley Guidroz, a Ph.D. candidate in industrial-organizational psychology, says many nurses drop out because the shortage has left them feeling overworked. Some hospital-based nurses don’t feel supported by their hospitals, which are trying to work through the situation but can’t please everyone, she says. For instance, she adds, financial incentives offered by hospitals to attract new nurses leave more experienced caregivers feeling slighted.

Nurses also feel they aren’t paid enough to deal with difficult doctors—the group with which nurses have generally reported the most problems in the incivility survey conducted by Guidroz.

She started with a general measure of workplace incivility developed by Bowling Green graduates Jennifer Burnfield and Olga Clark, and “modified the measure for a health-care setting,” explains Dr. Steve Jex, psychology.

She went on to receive a small grant for her research from the University of Cincinnati’s Education and Research Center, becoming the first Bowling Green student to get grant funding for an incivility study.

Among the other three groups with which they interact, nurses generally have the fewest problems with supervisors, while peers and patients are in the middle of the rankings, Guidroz found.

But it’s easier for nurses to overlook the incivility that comes their way from patients, she points out. “They’re able to empathize with the patients more,” she says. “They understand it more from them than from any other source.”

Patients, however, are the ones who can ultimately suffer from their caregivers’ conflicts, which can greatly affect the quality of health care. A hospital stay entails more contact with nurses than doctors, but if, for example, a nurse doesn’t believe a difficult doctor can be approached about possibly having prescribed the wrong medicine for a patient, health care can be compromised, Guidroz contends.

The New Orleans native, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and English from Tulane University in 2001, received access to University Hospital in Cincinnati in addition to the Education and Research Center grant for her study.

Her connection with the University of Cincinnati began nearly two years ago, when Dr. Donna Gates, a registered nurse and UC professor of nursing who researches violence in nursing homes, made a presentation at BGSU. After Guidroz spoke to Gates about her and other Bowling Green students’ work on incivility, she, Jex and three other students were invited to make a presentation at Cincinnati’s College of Nursing.

Guidroz and colleague Heather Schwetschenau will be at UC Oct. 20 to present the study’s findings at the Education and Research Center’s sixth annual Pilot Research Project Symposium. The day before, also in Cincinnati, they will make a similar presentation for the Nurse-Physician Collaborative, a partnership of nurses and doctors who focus on improving nurse-physician relationships in the workplace.

BGSU has now applied for an intervention study as part of UC’s application for a larger grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is creating centers of excellence focused on health promotion.

The study would include an incivility component, looking at the predominant sources of conflict for nurses and working with them on quality of interpersonal relations. More specifically, Guidroz says, BGSU researchers would work on standards of respect—even as basic as saying hello—within a culture of civility. The other facet of the study would be well-being—helping nurses set goals for eating better and getting more exercise to cope with stress.

It’s all geared toward promoting “that civil culture we sometimes take for granted,” adds Guidroz, who received her master’s degree in I-O psychology from Minnesota State University-Mankato, where her adviser was Bowling Green alumna Lisa Perez. Guidroz expects to graduate from BGSU in May 2007.

October 10, 2005