Naturalistic correlational study of stress and its physiological correlates in an Intensive Care Unit (ICUs)
TimeThursday, April 152:00pm - 3:00pm EDT
DescriptionIntensive care units (ICUs) have a complex, dynamic, and fast-paced working environment which is characterized by high workload shifts where nurses have to deal with intense stressful tasks and emotional aspects of life. These factors could deteriorate ICU nurses’ wellbeing and performance and subsequently decline patients’ safety. Consequently, stress monitoring has gained popularity. To continuously monitor stress, foundational knowledge is needed to understand the physiological correlates of stress and physiological (e.g., heart rate and electrodermal activity). The majority of previous research documenting such correlations has been conducted in a laboratory setting environment where participants were given one stress task at a time and were exposed to a specific type of stressor for a short period (less than 30 minutes). However, these findings are difficult to generalize to actual ICU working condition as (1) one aspect of ICU nursing is multitasking which means that nurses could face various types of stressors (e.g., mental stress, emotional stress, and time pressure stsress) with no gap between them and (2) nurses have to cope with stressful events over an extended period (up to 12 hours) which might change the known intensity and/or direction of physiological responses as a coping mechanism. To address these concerns and to explore the correlation between stress and physiological responses, we conducted a naturalist study of ICU nurses using a wrist-worn technology, Empatica E4, and collected heart rate, skin temperature, and electrodermal activity from 23 ICU nurses during the 12-hour day and night shifts. Furthermore, stress values were computed by Kubios software using Baevsky's Stress Index for each minute of working shifts. We found a strong positive correlation between (a) stress and heart rate, (b) stress and skin temperature, and (c) heart rate and skin temperature. Not all of these findings are not supported by previous evidence obtained in lab studies which may suggest the need for further validations in the naturalistic environments.