Nursing Stress Affects Healthcare
Nursing stress is affecting our healthcare workforce to an alarming degree. When I look at all the different programs and information promoting better healthcare, it seems to always be focused on the delivery system, the patient, regulatory requirement, or finances. While all of these are important aspects, I have to ask the question, “Who is looking out for the nurse?” Nurses are the largest segment of the healthcare population yet they are suffering in silence. Caring for the nurse will definitely impact healthcare in positive ways.
The biggest topic of conversation we seem to avoid is how do nurses survive their profession? Yes, I really mean that! How do we take care of nurses as they cope with the day in and day out sadness, trauma, death and everything in between? I believe if we don’t start addressing nurses and their long term emotional needs we may not have them when we need them to care for us.
You sigh and say I am being over dramatic. Maybe? But look at the number of hospitals with nursing vacancies. Many believe we are heading into the largest nursing shortage we have ever experienced. Experienced nurses are expected to retire at a rate faster than new nurses joining the ranks; add into the mix that burnout and fatigue are at all time highs
Many people, when they hear I am a nurse, say, “Oh, I could never do that!” It does take a special kind of person to be able to take perfect strangers into their care, help them at their most vulnerable times, provide support and emotional comfort, and witness some of humanities unthinkable tragedies. And this happens all while trying to deal with personal emotions and broken heartedness of this profession.
It is not normal to witness human suffering and death daily!
For too long we have told nurses to just be strong or keep going, it will be ok. Well, I am here to tell you we need to start recognizing the trauma of this profession. It is not normal to witness human suffering and death daily. As nurses we do it because it is part of the job, but we need to find ways to address our own sadness in these moments, not just suppress them inside and move on to the next patient.
Think of the last time a patient died in your facility. What level of support did the nurses get? Many tell me they are taking care of the physician, the patient, and the family and don’t have time to care or think about themselves. But after the tragic event such as a death many don’t have time to process the event. They simply make sure the patient is cleaned up, paperwork is done, phones calls are made and the room is cleaned. Then they are off and taking report on the next patient. All while trying to take care of the other patients in there care that they feel they may have neglected while tied up with the dying patient and family.
How many times or for how many days could you do that before something inside you would snap? I say nurses live a life with a million paper cuts to their hearts as each one of those deaths and tragedies gets etched into their hearts.
So, what are we to do?
We need to give them the time and tools to process the death. They should not have to drive home in a puddle of tears or keep stuffing their emotions down. We need to help them acknowledge the precious life they touched. Allow them time to honor that life before plunging into the next room and pasting on a smile and pretending it did not touch their soul.
While most nurses will tell you they feel there isn’t enough time for all the things they have to do, it is imperative to take a few minutes to process the events of care. If we have time for a “time out” before a surgery, we can make time after a tragic event to give the nurse and the team a “time out.”
Encourage the team to simply stop all activities and give a moment of silence for the life that has passed. Some may feel a desire to say a prayer while others may simply acknowledge the presence of sadness or other feelings that are present. Simply being present and allowing the feelings to be noticed for a minute or two in simple silence can dissipate the feelings. Follow the silence with 5 – 10 deep breaths before resuming the tasks at hand.
By addressing the feelings and emotion in the moment or quickly there after keeps you from suppressing them inside or feeling like you are on the verge of tears. It will also help ward off the feeling of becoming irritable later. The deep breathing allows your entire body and nervous system to simply slow down and exit the fight or flight response so you do not continue in a high state of stress.
Acknowledging and welcoming feelings we experience in the work place can go a long way in the long-term personal survival of the nurse as well as other staff members. Nurses come to the profession because they are caring people; we need to make sure we start taking care of them!
Download your free Nurses Guide: Dealing with the Trauma & Sadness After Loss of Life
This post was published on LinkedIn on September 7, 2018. Here is the link.