Online support to reduce nurses’ stress developed by Oxford Brookes in partnership with the NHS

Health care staff in a hospital
Health care staff in a hospital. Photo Anna Shvets/

Oxford Brookes University has partnered with the NHS to develop web-based resources designed to tackle stress and support the mental health of nurses.

The online resources have been developed for nurses in collaboration with Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust to help protect them from the pressures and challenges they face in their roles. 

Professor Catherine Henshall, the Deputy Lead for Research for the Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery (OSNM) and Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Research Lead at Oxford Health NHS led the project. 

Professor Henshall said: “Stress levels in nurses can have unprecedented effects on their wellbeing and satisfaction in the workplace, with escalating demands on time and limited resources exacerbating burnout and impacting on the mental and physical health of staff.” 

The resources were piloted by nurses in a research study funded by the Burdett Trust for Nursing at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and consisted of four sessions led by senior nurses from Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and Oxford Brookes University. These focused on resilience, spirituality, well-being, critical thinking and emotional intelligence. Participants were also invited to meet once or twice a week for small group mentoring sessions and were provided with other reading materials. 

“The pilot study received positive feedback from nurses who reported that the sessions helped improve their resilience, self-confidence, ability to provide good patient care, relationships with colleagues, and communication skills,” said Professor Henshall. 

“The study findings are important for health care practice as they indicate that simple, yet effective, web-based interventions may play an important role in increasing resilience in the health care workforce.

“Hospital managers, clinicians, and well-being leads should consider using similar interventions to enhance resilience and staff well-being. However, more web-based interventions need to be tested to enhance confidence in their value and the evidence base. In the long term. This could lead to improvements in staff motivation, retention, and recruitment, ultimately improving patient care outcomes.”

Marie Crofts, Chief Nurse for Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, which employs 2,000 registered nurses, including specialists in mental health, district nurses and school nurses said: “Looking after the wellbeing of our nurses is essential for both recruitment and retention. This work on resilience and wellbeing resources can form part  of our offer to our nursing staff. 

“Nursing is a fantastic career with so many opportunities to diversify along with the roles within the allied health professions. Many nurses go on to get specialist qualifications that give them skills in advanced practice. It’s really rewarding and we want people to know that if they join the NHS, they will be looked after.”

Jessica Summers, a deputy ward manager in the intensive care unit at the Littlemore Mental Health Centre in Oxford says she would welcome resources to help nurses combat stress.

She said: “We have started developing an awareness of wellbeing on the ward to help retain staff. I did a student placement here and worked here before I qualified. I have worked here the longest of all the qualified staff and I’ve been here two years.

“We have a lot of challenging behaviours from patients. We have to manage those situations and we work very long shift patterns. People aren’t great at taking breaks and managing their own wellbeing.

“We’ve started a few things like a tuck shop and proactive feedback with a new system to make sure all staff have supervision in a timely manner. We have one of the highest rates of supervisions across the trust. We give people more time to do training and personal development reviews, and we want to support people to help them flourish rather than face burnout.”

The resources are set to be discussed by the Oxford Health Senior Nurses Forum with a view to being rolled out across the Trust.

The project could inform the national NHS Health and Wellbeing Framework which sets standards for supporting staff to feel well, healthy and happy at work.