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Monday, September 13, 2010

How to Deal with Nursing Stress

by Caitlin McGuire


Imagine spending every day of your life knowing that you're holding people's lives in your hands. For a nurse, that is every day. Day in, day out, nurses deal with the humane side of healthcare, thrown headfirst into pain, death and grieving with every patient that crosses the threshold of the hospital. Understandably, the nursing profession has a much higher rate of stress than is associated with other professions. The International Labour Organization has gone as far as creating a stress prevention manual for the profession.

Hospitals and other health care centers put a lot of demands on their nursing staff. The nursing shortage means that hospitals are understaffed, and the nurses that do have jobs are overworked. This causes frequent turnover in hospital staff. As they become dissatisfied with the workplace, they find jobs in other industries, further exacerbating the already present issue.

The physical pressure of constantly standing and moving patients can cause a huge stress on a nurse's body. Back and leg muscle problems are pervasive among nurses, in addition to psychological trauma. Working with hazardous materials increases the fear of infection many times over. They are faced with needles and fluids that could accidentally stick or splash them every time they walk into the hospital.

Emotional damage is probably the biggest cause of stress for nurses. Nurses work with inadequate staffing, meaning that they have to work harder with less chances for relief. At least 10% of nurses employed full time and 30% of nurses employed part-time have children. This leads almost a third of nurses to resign from their posts. The effect of prioritization between career and home life can be difficult for some nurses.

By far, the biggest cause of stress is the emotional connection between nurse and patient. Nurses work on the frontlines of diagnosis and healings, and consequently form easy bonds with most of the people they take care of. Understandably, nurses feel the pain that their patients experience. On the same train of thought, nurses grieve with the families when people they've grown close to pass away, while simultaneously being obligated to support the family in their time of need.

In the Journal of Applied Psychology, S.E. Jackson argues that stress relief for nurses begins with assessment and management of stress risk. When you assess your workforce, be mindful of the stress causations. For example, certain areas of medicine, like pediatrics and oncology, can put an emotional drain on nurses. Also, view the interactions between nurses and patients. Many nurses begin to relate closely to their patients. Finally, remember that nurses work with sick people. Exposure to illness can cause infection of the nurse, causing a physical stress in addition to emotional stress.

When managing these risk factors, think about your nurses' needs. Plan programs that let nurses discuss their problems, and don't let these strategies slip through the cracks. Overtime, reassess the situation. Determine what's working and what's not, and renegotiate your strategies accordingly.

In order to counteract your burnout on your own, find others who have experienced what you have. Delegate the less pressing things on your to do list to other people. Overall, remember what brought you to nursing, and focus on being on the frontlines, helping to save lives.

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  2. I like your blog a lot. Its informative and full of information. Thank you for sharing.