A Comparison of Perceived Stress Levels and Coping Styles of Junior and Senior Students in Nursing and Social Work Programs

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A Comparison of Perceived Stress
Levels and Coping Styles of
Junior and Senior Students in Nursing
And Social Work Programs
Robin L. Walton
Dissertation submitted to
The College of Graduate Studies at
Marshall University
In partial fulfillment of the requirements
For the degree of
Doctor of Education
Higher Education Administration
Dr. Dennis P. Prisk, Chair
Dr. Paul Leary
Dr. Lynne Welch
Dr. Steven Banks
Marshall University
Huntington, West Virginia
Keywords: perceived stress, coping styles, nursing students, social work students ABSTRACT
A Comparison of Perceived Stress Levels
And Coping Styles of Junior and Senior
Nursing and Social Work Students
Robin L. Walton
The purpose of this study was to determine if there is a difference in the perceived stress levels and the coping styles of junior and senior students in nursing and social work programs. The study used a descriptive comparative approach and was nonexperimental. Research questions were developed to guide this research. The population for this research included all junior and senior nursing and social work students preparing for or in clinical courses at a selected university. The sample consisted of 89 nursing students and 33 social work students. Data was obtained through self-reported survey procedures. The researcher visited appropriate classrooms identified by faculty. Participants were given a packet with three instruments. The first instrument was a demographic tool developed by the researcher. Perceived stress levels were measured by Cohen's Perceived Stress Scale. Coping styles were identified by the Moos Coping Responses Inventory. Responses indicated that social work students have significantly higher perceived stress levels than nursing students. Nursing students identified more reliance on approach coping responses, while social work students identified more reliance on avoidance coping responses. No significant differences were identified between the two groups based on age, gender, marital status, employment status or class. iii

Although a dissertation is credited to only one person, it actually should be credited to many. Therefore, I would like to recognize those individuals that were so helpful in assisting me to reach my goal.

First, I would like to acknowledge the members of my dissertation committee. I would especially like to express my sincere gratitude to my Chair, Dr. Dennis Prisk, for his constant support and guidance. From helping to reassemble my committee to putting the finishing touches on my dissertation, he has been absolutely priceless. I must also express my thanks to Dr. Paul Leary for helping me choose an interesting topic (much better than my first) and for his expert advice and "trenchant observations". I need to recognize Dr. Lynne Welch for her support, guidance and thoughtful suggestions. Special thanks must go to Dr. Steven Banks for all his help with my statistics and for handling all my silly questions with good-natured patience and understanding. Second, I must thank Dr. Germie Berhey for allowing me to survey his social work students. He was accommodating and helpful. For this he has my heartfelt thanks. Third, I would like to acknowledge my friends David Ridpath and Karen Kirtley for providing me with support and encouragement, as well as valuable advice from their own recent dissertation process. I only wish I could have met you both earlier. I would also like to thank Sheila Kyle for loaning me her articles and for providing advice whenever I needed it.

Third, I would be remiss not to acknowledge my family. To my mother and father, Lindy and Twyla Browning, I must express my sincerest appreciation not only for their encouragement and support, but also for all the countless meals they had ready iv

when I would return from class in Charleston. My husband, Roger and my daughter, Bethany need to be recognized for their support and understanding, as well as for...
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