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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Teaching strategies for coping with stress – the perceptions of medical students

Maria Amelia Dias Pereira1* and Maria Alves Barbosa2

Author Affiliations

1 Departamento de Saúde Mental e Medicina Legal da Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade Federal de Goiás - Primeira Avenida, Goiânia, Goiás, Brazil

2 Faculdade de Enfermagem da Universida de Federal de Goiás, Faculdade de Enfermagem– Rua 227, quadra 68, s/n, Setor Leste Universitário, Goiânia, Goiás, CEP: 74605 080, Brazil

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BMC Medical Education 2013, 13:50  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-50

Published: 8 April 2013



The undergraduate medical course is a period full of stressors, which may contribute to the high prevalence of mental disorders among students and a decrease in life’s quality. Research shows that interventions during an undergraduate course can reduce stress levels. The aim of this paper is to evaluate the Strategies for Coping with Professional Stress class offered to medical students of the Federal University of Goiás, at Goiânia, Goiás, in Brazil.


Qualitative research, developed with medical students in an elective class addressing strategies for coping with stress after a focal group (composed of nine of the 33 students taking this course) identified stress factors in the medical course and the coping strategies that these students use. Analysis of the results of the class evaluation questionnaire filled out by the students on the last day of class.


Stress factors identified by students in the focus group: lack of time, excessive class content, tests, demanding too much of themselves, overload of extracurricular activities, competitiveness among students and family problems. Coping strategies mentioned in the focus group: respecting one’s limits, setting priorities, avoiding comparisons, leisure activities (movies, literature, sports, meeting with friends and family). Results of the questionnaires: class content that was considered most important: quality of life, strategies for coping with stress, stress factors, assertiveness, community therapy, relaxation, cognitive restructuring, career choice, breathing, social networking, taking care of the caregiver, music therapy and narcissism. Most popular methodologies: relaxation practice, drawing words and discussion them in a group, community therapy, music therapy, simulated jury, short texts and discussion. Meaning of the class: asking questions and reinforcing already known strategies (22.6%), moment of reflection and self-assessment (19.4%), new interest and a worthwhile experience (19.4%), improvement in quality of life (16.1%), expression’s opportunity (9.7%), other (6.4%).


The stressors perceived by the medical students are intense and diverse, and the coping strategies used by them are wide-ranging. Most students felt that the class was a worthwhile learning experience, incorporated new practices for improving quality of life and recognized the importance of sharing and reflecting on one’s stressors and life choices.

Stress; Coping strategies; Medical under graduate education; Teaching strategies