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Although caring for residents with dementia in nursing homes is associated with various stressors for care workers, the role of the unit type, and particularly the proportion of residents with dementia, remains unclear. This study aimed to explore associations between unit type and care worker stress, taking into account additional potential stressors.
This cross-sectional study was a secondary data analysis in the Swiss Nursing Homes Human Resources Project, which included data from 3,922 care workers from 156 Swiss nursing homes. Care workers’ stress was measured with a shortened version of the Health Professions Stress Inventory. Generalized estimating equation models were used to assess care worker stress and its relationships with three unit types (special care units and others with high or low proportions of residents with dementia), work environment factors, and aggressive resident behavior.
After including all potential stressors in the models, no significant differences between the three unit types regarding care worker stress were found. However, increased care worker stress levels were significantly related to lower ratings of staffing and resources adequacy, the experience of verbal aggression, and the observation of verbal or physical aggression among residents.
Although the unit type plays only a minor role regarding care worker stress, this study confirms that work environment and aggressive behavior of residents are important factors associated with work-related stress. To prevent increases of care worker stress, interventions to improve the work environment and strengthen care workers’ ability to cope with aggressive behavior are suggested.
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