Stress and nursing education

Posted on August 9, 2013 by

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It is summertime and the living is easy. Or so they say for many college educators who are perhaps “off contract” for the summer months. At the school where I teach, our contract ends at the end of May and we are not obligated to be on campus until the start of September. It sounds a bit heavenly, but of course much of the summer is spent working and reworking classes and syllabi.

For instance, this summer I am reworking 4 classes to align with our new course objectives and revised program outcomes. This really means everything from changing course textbooks, to reworking assignments, to updating readings. I read recently in a nurse educators social media discussion site that many educators leave nursing education because the work is constant (preparing for class, evaluating students, and so on…). It is not like a 12 hour shift where on some levels (in theory) you can walk away from work and be done. Particularly with teaching online, the online classroom never closes, and revisions also seem to be continual as we consider student feedback on an ongoing basis.

For myself, I continue to teach for various schools during the summer when I am not obligated to my primary position to teach. I enjoy doing this because it usually means I am working with graduate students and even with doctoral students outside of nursing education… and getting caught up on bills that seem to accumulate during the year is also enjoyable. As you may have heard, educators working in academia generally make less money (particularly given our educational levels) than those nurses who work in hospital environments.

I teach online during the summer, so there are no long commutes to campus, no meetings to endure (I love and treasure my colleagues, but focusing  hour upon hour is challenging to me), and though I am teaching 5 online courses this summer, my stress level is low. My body feels easy and soft, my chronic back pain has gone from a continual 3-5/ 10 to a 0-1/10. I sleep better. I lost 5 pounds and have more time to eat a healthy diet, and more time to make better choices. I work out everyday in a quality way, not trying to squeeze it into those moments between. I wake up and meditate, and don’t always feel obligated to get right online to check those urgent messages. I don’t worry about having enough time to do everything. I don’t worry about not having enough time to teach because of all of the administrative and accreditation issues, I just teach, and I try to write something publishable in the summer related to nursing education or caring and healing. And I rework my 4 classes which takes continual ongoing focus.

Although I think I do everything I can to manage my stress during the school year, obviously there is a difference here in my lived experience. During the school year I do meditate every morning, do yoga before bed every night, and work out 5-6 days/ week. But somehow, it is still not the same as having the freedom of a less restricted schedule.

And this also leads me to believe that there may be inherent stressors in our work environments which we may not have control over; I would love to hear stories of nurse faculty who are not feeling stressed during the school year. How does your work environment impact your life as an educator?

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