11-3 Stress and sources of stress among physical therapy students

Stress and sources of stress among physical therapy students
Tamar Jacob, PhD


Background - Mental stress among physical therapy (PT) students is known as a major hindrance to learning. Increased awareness of the prevalence of stress among PT students and its cause may assist faculty of the PT program in management of the problem.

Aims: To evaluate the perception of stress and to identify sources of stress among PT students and to identify which subgroups among the students perceive a high level of stress.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted among all the students in a four year undergraduate PT program in Israel. Data collected by a questionnaire included demographic background of the students (e.g. gender, family status, work, command of the English language, hours spent working and leisure time activities). Perceived difficulty of courses was evaluated by a 10 point Likert type scale, stress perception was evaluated using the Perceived Stress Scale-10 (PSS) and sources of stress were identified via by the Undergraduate Sources of Stress Questionnaire (USOS).

Results: The sample consisted of 154 students. The average perceived difficulty of the courses (7.7±1.4) was similar among students from all 4 years of study, while the average PSS (13.8±6.4 for all students) Israelwas the highest among the second year students and lowest among the 4th year students. Factor analysis of the USOS questionnaire revealed five sources of stress: Academic, economic, personal, familial and transportation. The most significant factor was the academic factor. Married students and those who participated in sports and leisure activities were more likely to perceive a lower level of stress than other students. There was no association between the PSS scores or the stress factors identified by the USOS and gender, level of English fluency and hours spent in gainful employment.

Conclusions: The program of studies of the second year of the PT program should be reevaluated to find ways to reduce the academic load during that year. However, several hypotheses about sub-groups who are at increased risk of high stress levels were rejected. Therefore the faculty in Physical Therapy programs is advised to be aware of the stress levels of students on a personal basis, rather than by profiling subgroups.

Key words: stress perception, physical therapy students, stress factors, academic load.

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