Attributes of successful new Intensive Care Unit nurses

Laurie Anne Van der Heide, Fordham University


The present research was designed to study personality and behavioral attributes of new graduate Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurses in order to discern which characteristics would be predictors of successful adaptation to the ICU. Successful ICU nurses were contrasted with non-successful ICU nurses, and with nurses from other specialties. It was predicted that successful ICU nurses would have less fear of death, use less denial, have lower optimal levels of stimulation, and experience a less general life stress before beginning employment, and that they would report less work-related stress and take more sick time then would non-successful ICU nurses during the first six months of work. With regard to nurses who chose the ICU, it was expected that they would have less death anxiety, use more denial, have higher optimal levels of stimulation, experience more work-related stress, take more sick-time, and experience a greater number of deaths than would non-ICU nurses. Sixty-one ICU and 85 non-ICU nurses from three similar metropolitan medical centers participated. The Collett-Lester Fear of Death Scale, Revised Repression-Sensitization Scale, Sensation Seeking Scale V, and the Life Experience Survey were used to assess the dependent variables, and the Nursing Stress Scale and the Six Dimension Scale of Nursing Performance were used to assess work-related stress and performance respectively. The variables studied differentiated independently between nurses who chose the ICU and those who chose other specialties very effectively while they were relatively ineffective in discriminating between successful and non-successful adaptation to the ICU. ICU nurses had lower death anxiety, used more denial, had higher levels of optimal stimulation, reported less work-related stress, took more sick time and experienced more deaths than non-ICU nurses. Successful ICU nurses experienced less work-related and general life stress and took less sick time than non-successful ICU nurses. Notably, in combination, 3 via a discriminant function analysis, defensive stance, sensation seeking, death anxiety, and negative life stress all contributed to the accurate prediction of 75% of cases of successful and non-successful adaptation to the ICU. It was concluded that ICU nurses are less stressed than was previously believed and that the use of denial is adaptive at least during the beginning of a first job in nursing.

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Recommended Citation

Van der Heide, Laurie Anne, "Attributes of successful new Intensive Care Unit nurses" (1987). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8809485.