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Identifying Patient Stressors

A recently released survey by the Federal Reserve Board shows that many households reported similar or slightly more economic stability than in the previous year. But the Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S Households doesn’t pretend everything is rosy.

Despite the overall positive results, which have continued to improve since the survey started in 2013, the report still shows some areas of concern. The survey found that nearly 80% of white respondents reported they were “doing OK financially,” but that only two-thirds of black and Hispanic respondents answered the same way.

Where people live also impacted their reported overall well being. Of the 11,000 respondents, only two-thirds of those living in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods were satisfied with where they live, compared to 80% of people in moderate- to upper-income neighborhoods. Education mattered as well. Respondents with at least a bachelor’s degree reported more stability than those with a high school diploma.

What does this mean for nurses? The results bring a different perspective into nursing practice depending on where nurses are located. As professionals who work with the public every day, nurses know how stressors in the environment can play out in the health of patients. It’s worth digging a little deeper to determine the particular stressors of your particular area.

For instance, what are the pressures of a patient living in a specific neighborhood? Some patients might report a lack of public or accessible transportation making it difficult to get to appointments, buy groceries, or find a job. Other neighborhoods lack high-quality mental health care or are in a food desert making it almost impossible to buy fresh groceries. Still, other neighborhoods don’t feel safe for certain residents.

What can this Federal Reserve Report help you learn about your patient population? If you see many older patients, they may be struggling in retirement or they may feel forced to continue working in order to pay the bills. The report found that 25% of respondents who were not retired yet had nothing saved for retirement. Of those 60 years and older, 13% have nothing saved. Again, minorities reported being less prepared financially for retirement than white respondents.

The repercussions for the patients who are continuing to work to pay the bills can impact everything from their sleep schedules to what they can afford for food, medication, housing, and transportation. It can also have an impact socially and with their emotional health. If someone continues to work past retirement age because they have to, for instance, they may feel a resentment and exhaustion that is absent or not disruptive in someone who chooses to remain gainfully employed. On the other end of the generational spectrum is the younger population struggling to pay bills and launch an independent life because they are swamped with student debt. They may be raising a family and working more than one job to keep up.

All of the touch points in the report are good points for nurses to ponder. Knowing what your general population struggles with can help you ask the right questions to get to a deeper level of care. Some stressors aren’t as obvious (financial distress), aren’t acceptable to talk about in some cultures (gender identity), or may not be easy to bring up (domestic violence or mental health struggles).

As the top patient advocates, nurses can help bring issues to the forefront and can help patients get the kind of help they need to live the healthiest lives possible.

This story was originally published by Minority Nurse, a trusted source for nursing news and information and a portal for the latest jobs, scholarships, and books from award-winning publisher, Springer Publishing Company.