Healthcare Environment

Neuroendocrine Correlates of Empathy and Stress Reactivity in Registered Nurses
Understanding the mechanisms of stress is essential to create safe healthcare environments. Intimidating and disruptive behaviors create a stressful and hostile work environment and result in serious adverse outcomes for nurses, and most importantly their patients.  Drawing on evidence from a neuroendocrine framework, individuals with oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) polymorphism (GG allele) have higher levels of self-reported empathy and lower levels of stress reactivity than individuals with one or two copies of the A allele (AA and AG).  Thus, response to a stressful environment has both a genetic and neurohormonal influence as well as the hostile social environment itself. This is an exploratory feasibility study to examine the relationships among oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) variation; self-reported empathy; self-reported stress reactivity; and perceived work stress, burnout and violence among acute care registered nurses and mid-level nurse managers.  Recruited nurses received a study packet with instructions to complete the questionnaires and collect buccal cells using an Isohelix collection kit.  This project provides pilot data for a larger study of the neuroendocrine correlates of empathy and stress reactivity in nurses and interventions to alter behavior and create safe healthcare environments for nurses and their patients. Primary Investigator: Kathe Hawes PhD.

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