Grad student Marisa Harrington and her supervisor Lynneth Stuart-Hill say preliminary results from a study into the affects of stress on hospital nurses show an impact on sleep and heart variability. (Courtesy of Marisa Harrington)

Grad student Marisa Harrington and her supervisor Lynneth Stuart-Hill say preliminary results from a study into the affects of stress on hospital nurses show an impact on sleep and heart variability. (Courtesy of Marisa Harrington)

University of Victoria study shows stress impact on Greater Victoria nurses

Stress may be impacting sleep, heart health of local hospital nurses

Early data from a new University of Victoria study reveals that the region’s nurses are experiencing stress-related health impacts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results are early, says researcher and UVic grad student Marisa Harrington, but they show poorer sleep quality compared to the average person, as well as a reduction in heart rate variability.

Harrington, along with supervisor Lynneth Stuart-Hill, looked into the physiological impacts of stress on 10 Greater Victoria hospital nurses. Funded by UVic’s Centre for Occupational Research and Testing, participating nurses wore a watch-sized monitor over an eight-day shift rotation.

Their sleep patterns, heart rate and heart rate variability were all monitored. The stress responses were significant and similar, according to the study, regardless of the department or hospital the nurse worked in.

“We know that this is a population that feels stressed psychologically,” Harrington says. “Now, we’re establishing that there’s a measurable physiological impact as well.”

Nurse Misha Sojonky participates in a UVic study looking at health impacts of stress in hospital nurses. (Courtesy of Marisa Harrington)

Early analysis of sleep data reveals that the nurses are getting less sleep than the average person. The data also shows that they are spending more time in light sleep and less time in REM sleep – a deep phase of sleep thought to increase brain activity.

READ ALSO: Overworked and understaffed: More than 300 vacancies in Vancouver Island nursing

“We’re still analyzing, but we are seeing significant data already around sleep in particular,” Harrington says. “We’ve looked at the cardiovascular data and there is definitely an effect there as well.”

Early data shows a reduction in the nurse’s heart rate variability, which indicates that the body’s sympathetic nervous system, responsible for ‘fight, flight or freeze’ responses, is chronically dominating the parasympathetic nervous system, which works to keep the body calm.

The study wasn’t created for the pandemic but will likely shed some light on the exacerbated stresses caused by the health crisis, Harrington said. “It’s a really underrepresented group in physiological research,” she said. “From talking to the nurses, even working before the pandemic these issues have come up and the pandemic has only exacerbated the stressors.”

The study will also analyze nurse’s saliva for cortisol, melatonin and interleukin-6, markers associated with stress, sleep and inflammation, respectively. Phase two of the study is now underway with a new group of participants.

Harrington anticipates the second phase will be complete in the spring.

READ ALSO: B.C. nurses call for mandatory shutdown of all non-essential workplaces


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: nina.grossman@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

HealthcareIsland HealthUniversity of Victoria

Just Posted

Jimmy Seymour was recognized for his outstanding work as the solid waste operator for Stz’uminus First Nation. (Submitted photo)
Top Jimmy: Ladysmith-area man takes your trash, leaves a smile

Jimmy Seymour uses his job as solid waste operator to spread kindness through Stz’uminus First Nation

Proprietor of Sweet Truck, Morgan Ray, as she hands off her baked goods to a customer. (Photo courtesy of Avrinder Dhillon Photography)
Vancouver Island baker eyes move back from food truck to bricks and mortar

Storefront offers more stability amid growth in sales: Ray

Emissions from the City of Abbotsford's vehicles make up the largest share of the municipality's emissions.
File photo
Vancouver Island councillor leads campaign to reduce building-sector GHG emissions

Courtenay’s Will Cole-Hamilton pushing for building emission legislation

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Thousands protested in Victoria following the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. not exempt: New report documents 150 years of racism and the fight against it

Booklet marks province’s 150th anniversary with call for transparency, change

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

A mobile home fire prompted a quick response from firefighters Saturday around 3:30 p.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Mobile home up in flames at Duncan RV Park

One patient burned, EHS on scene

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Works crews have begun to install roads and other infrastructure to service the Nigel Valley redevelopment project that will bring nearly 800 new housing units to Saanich over the next several years. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Prep work begins on massive Nigel Valley development in Saanich

Construction of first two developments expected to begin fall 2021, B.C. Housing says

Gregory Ould, co-founder and executive director of Blanket BC, drops off warming blankets to Our Home on Eighth shelter in Port Alberni during a tour of Vancouver Island on Feb. 19, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Blanket BC delivers warmth, hope to Vancouver Island’s homeless

Gregory Ould donated blankets, toques in five communities

Duncan Christian’s Grace George lines up a shot during the three-point portion of the BC School Sports Pandemic Basketball Challenge after taking a pass from Cam Stevens. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Duncan Christian leads the way in pandemic basketball challenge

School tops participation numbers for second time this year

The shadow cast of the Satyr Players production of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’: Linda Dohmeier as Dr. Scott, Olivia Erickson as Columbia, Brandon Caul as Rocky, Christopher Carter as Brad, Charlie Prince as Eddie, Branden Martell as Riff Raff, Jenna Morgan as Magenta, Megan Rhode as Janet and Adrien Kennedy as Dr. Frank-N-Furter (clockwise from left). (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
VIU student actors go online for 25th-annual ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’

Satyr Players theatre company to broadcast pre-recorded shadow production

Most Read