In a study published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, researchers sought to evaluate the “stress experiences and coping strategies” among nurses taking care of people living with human immunodeficiency virus (PLWH) in China. The study’s first author, Chen Pan, reported that concerns about occupational exposure, heavy workload, patients’ mental health problems and risk behaviors, and discrimination toward nurses caring for PLWH were the main stressors.

The investigators recruited 33 nurses from the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) department of a public, general, third-grade class-A hospital, “which has the largest HIV care department in the Hunan Province of China.” Eight nurses participated in a focus group, while 25 nurses underwent in-depth interviews to describe the nurse’s experience with stress during caring for PLWH.

According to the report, the negative effects of stress included “problems with emotional regulation, somatic health and sleep, and work performance,” although, interestingly, the authors also noted that some nurses “reported a positive impact of work stress on their mental health.” Lastly, the common stress coping strategies used by nurses caring for PLWH included using personality strengths, problem-solving, help-seeking, concealing, and avoiding or suppressing.

Ultimately, the authors suggested that their descriptive study would “help characterize the stress experienced by nurses caring for PLWH in the Chinese cultural context and may inform specific interventions to help manage stress and promote mental health of nurses.”