DOI: 10.1515/ijnes-2022-0096 ISSN:

Stress, depression, and anxiety among undergraduate nursing students in the time of a pandemic

Wanda M. Chernomas, Carla R. Shapiro, James C. Plohman, Rasheda Rabbani
  • Education
  • General Nursing



Emerging literature reports on the challenges faced by nursing students internationally during the pandemic as they continue their education. The aim of this mixed methods study was to examine stress, depression, and anxiety among undergraduate nursing students at a Canadian university during the pandemic.

Theoretical Frameworks

Stress and coping and trauma theories informed this study.


Mixed methods included an online questionnaire composed of the Depression Anxiety Stress scales (DASS), sociodemographic data, and quality of life items with open-ended questions.


Sample included 280 participants. Mean scores for depression and stress were in the mild level, for anxiety in the moderate level; 24 , 37 and 23 % of the sample had scores of severe or extremely severe for depression, anxiety, and stress respectively. Written comments reflected the impact on participants’ relationships, motivation, struggles with remote learning, perceived heavy workloads, and impact on health and self-care, while some described positive experiences, including improved study habits.


Uncertainty, isolation, sudden and ongoing changes with program delivery and a variety of psychosocial losses, helped to explain the distress many shared. The disconnect between reported levels of use of mental health services and the higher levels of mental distress raises the question of access to and use of these services.

Implications for an International Audience

The importance of developing and maintaining effective coping, including a support system, and committing to healthy self-care during challenging times was reinforced.


This difficult time for nursing students emphasized the need to ensure attention to student well-being and mental health during their foundational educational experiences.

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