, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 75-88

Stress perceptions in community clinic: a pilot survey of patients and physicians

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Abstract

This pilot survey of 103 patients and 17 physicians in an urban family medicine clinic gathered information pertinent to the design of a feasible stress intervention for patients bothered by stress, but who did not have a psychiatric diagnosis. Among patients, 45% reported being excessively bothered by stress in the preceding month, with the chief stressors being job (70 reporting), financial worries (58%) and family concerns (50%). Patients reported a variety of problems perceived to be related to stress, such as headaches, insomnia, eating control, and gastrointestinal symptoms. Although about 80% reported using positive coping methods (e.g., talking, exercising, and relaxing), 42% reported using alcohol, and 10% used non-prescribed drugs to cope with stress. Only 37% of patients had sought help for stress from their physician. The wide variety of responses from the physicians reflected a lack of standardized approaches, inadequate training, and a reluctance to engage patients about their stress problems. About 42% of the physicians reported routinely asking patients about stress, and 77% felt that dealing with patient stress was a significant burden on their practice of medicine. Overall, the findings indicate that opportunities are being missed for helping patients to deal with stress constructively, and that a standardized stress self-management program might be one solution.