Jordin Purcell-Riess has worked as a registered nurse at the emergency department at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Conn., for three years. She describes her workplace as phones going off, voices everywhere, every room full. "You look around and the hallways are full of patients on stretchers; you walk out to the waiting room and you can see on our board that there's 15 people signing in," she says. "The second you can get your ICU patient upstairs, there's another one waiting for you."
She typically doesn't get a chance to eat or drink or go to the bathroom during her 12-hour shift, Purcell-Riess says. And she's not alone. Her nursing manager points out that a 2007 study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that 24 percent of ICU nurses and 14 percent of general nurses tested positive for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Nursing has long been considered one of the most stressful professions, according to a review of research by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2012. Nurses and researchers say it comes down to organizational problems in hospitals worldwide. That includes cuts in staffing; some California nurses struck last month for a week over low staffing and wages.