Health care is a demanding profession, and nursing is one of the most stressful careers one can pursue. It’s crucial for nurses to understand how to cope with the job’s common stressors. If you learn coping skills early and put them to good use, you’ll find nursing is a challenging and highly rewarding profession.
A 2014 study found nurses are more likely to burn out if they entered the field primarily to help others. This is a great motivation to become a nurse, but often leads to emotional or “compassion fatigue.” Former nurse Jill O’Hara explains that nursing is either a career or a calling. Those nurses who are called to the profession are likely to take patients’ problems and emotions home, while a more career-oriented nurse is better able to let that go at the end of a shift.
O’Hara and other nurses recommend addressing this issue when nurses are still in school. Coping mechanisms for emotional fatigue may include “brain downtime,” which involves mental recreation such as reading, computer games, or puzzles. O’Hara is also the founder of Yoga Nursing, which combines the physical exercise of yoga with deep breathing and meditation.
Lack of Staff
A recent survey found that two-thirds of nurses reported their wards or teams are regularly short-staffed. Nurses quoted in the study say they are “at breaking point.” Adding to this stress is the fact that many nurses think patients aren’t getting the care they deserve, which leads to the emotional fatigue described above.
A constantly understaffed ward or team increases the physical demands placed on every nurse. Many nurses work more than 10 additional hours a week and are required to look after 15 or more patients. As a result, they must spend less time with each patient, which negatively influences their care.
To combat this issue, nursing schools must examine how staff is recruited. They must improve recruiting program weaknesses and evaluate programs. For nurses already in the field, adequate sleep, a healthy diet, and mental coping mechanisms are important. If you are a nurse and are experiencing exhaustion or burnout, counseling may help.