According to Taylor and Barling (2004), career stress or simply burnout is a threat to the well-being of health workers. Career strain has been defined by Farrington (1997) as bleeding oneself for the benefit of others.
Symptoms of burnout are evident on these individuals' emotional, cognitive and physical facets (Taylor & Barling, 2004). These symptoms described by Farrington (1997) include: lower level of energy, pessimism, feelings of helplessness, depersonalization, lowered self-esteem and even cynicism. Mental health nursing has been closely connected in dealing with burnout and stress on the nursing field (Taylor & Barling, 2004). Rees & Smith, in their 1991 article, has provided a documentation of the stress order of National Health Service professionals in the United Kingdom. It shows that community mental health nurses (CMHN) occupied the top place alongside speech therapist followed by general nurses and mental health nurses who are ward-based both in the third position.
Another survey by Nolan (1995) on mental health nurses used the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) in measuring caseness. Caseness is a name pertaining to the probability of acquiring a psychiatric disorder. The GHQ created by David Goldberg is available in 4 different versions with varying number of items-12, 28, 30, and 60 item Likert-type (with 4 choices) scale. Since the GHQ is a screening measure to identify trivial psychiatric problems, the questionnaire items aim to know the general health of the respondents over the recent weeks. It can be used with the general public but mostly used with health care professionals. Higher scores in the questionnaire imply psychological distress of the individual (General Health Questionnaire, n.d.).
The GHQ was also used by Brown et al (1994) and Fagin et al (1995) to measure the psychological distress of health workers. Results indicated that CMHN have the highest psychological distress among the nursing sample. Ward nurses were also seen to have high levels of depersonalization. This was backed up with the researchers by the explanation that ward nurses have lower levels of empathy towards their patients.
Stress in psychiatric nurses has been identified with their interaction to mentally ill patients (Melchior et al 1996). Different sources of stress include the patients tended to by the nurses, the co-nurses and doctors they are working with, the facilities in the hospital and the work itself (Taylor & Barling, 2004). Specifically, the researchers cited examples of stressful activities by CMHN nurses. Usually, they are stressed when in contact with the nerve-racking conditions of the work place-long waiting lines of patients, suicidal patients who can be very emotionally stressful, violent patients and hazardous work areas in different communities (Taylor & Barling, 2004). Some of these conditions were also true for ward-based nurses.
The literature has wide accounts of different nursing fields as having specific types of stressors (Farrington 1995; Leiter & Harvie 1996; Mcleod 1997; Wheeler 1998a). Stress indicators in general have been identified in the literature. These include dealing with different types of patients (Haynes, LaCroix, & Lippin, 1987), doing the same work over and over again (Haynes et al., 1987; Karasek, 1979), the educational attainment of the individual needed in the job