Nurses are Resilient, But They Also Need Help
Nurses are resilient beings. Out of all professions, nurses have the most contact with the sick. They constantly face difficult situations regarding patient care, comforting families, and communicating with healthcare providers to deliver quality patient care. Nurses are there, ever-present, and ready to help because they love their jobs. But who takes care of the nurses? What happens when nurses are battling their mental health issues?
What Causes the Stress in Nurses?
Being a nurse is both physically and psychologically demanding. The amount of stress is always high at any given shift. All of which can affect the mental health of nurses. But what are the causes of these stresses?
Long shift hours
Some hospitals run short of nurses, and because of this, many nurses must extend their working hours to provide round-the-clock patient care. This includes overnight shifts, which could take around 12-16 hours. working hours affect the natural sleeping pattern. It leaves them feeling fatigued and exhausted even before their actual shift starts. Although nursing is a 24-hour job, there are no resources to help nurses. The expectation is to figure it out and show up.
The increase in demand for health care services and the number of nurse retirees are among the many reasons why the usual workload of many nurses doubled. This situation has forced many hospitals and healthcare settings to function with skeleton crews. As a result, this makes the workload for existing nurses much heavier. The lack of nursing staff leads to picking up overtime, further increasing their weekly workload and leading to burnout.
Death of a patient
Losing a patient can also take a toll on nurses. It is one of the most challenging parts of this job, especially when the nurse and patient form a bond. Although some nurses understand that they will lose some of their patients, it can still affect a nurse’s emotions. After all, nurses are human beings too. Nurses face a constant emotional toll. They work with people in some of the worst times of their lives; no one ever wants to be in a hospital. Nurses feel those emotions, and it can be hard to separate them. While nurses are resilient, there is only so much they can take.
Bullying at workplace
Nurses also experience bullying at work. It usually comes from co-workers with seniority privileges and even patients. A toxic workplace and coworkers can impact a nurse’s mental health. Sometimes nurses forget that their coworkers are human too. The expectations are high, and some nurses forget that they don’t always know what they know now.
Safety and health concerns
The lack of adequate personal protective equipment, as seen during the Covid-19 pandemic, inadequate staffing of nurses, and insufficient resources can cause safety and health concerns. When hospitals do not provide nurses with protection during a health crisis or an adequate amount of staff, stress is inevitable. It also puts the health and safety of nurses at risk, putting the healthcare system in an even deeper hole.
How can nurses manage stress?
Stress will always be present no matter what we do; the key is to learn how to manage it more effectively.. . Here are good examples of what you can do when you feel stressed at work:
- Aromatherapy has proven to be effective in calming the nerves. It also reduces anxiety. Essential oils like lavender can help lower stress, so having a diffuser at work can help. Smelling something that’s nice will always boost your mood, even if you are not a big believer in aromatherapy.
- Eating healthy can also help lessen stress. Start eating more fruits and vegetables to help increase your energy. Caffeine is helpful, but make sure not to overdo it. . It would also help to keep yourself hydrated by drinking lots of water, especially if you have long shifts. The rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water before your 12-hour shift. But if you can’t drink all that water, bring some to work.
- Be sure to engage in activities that help stimulate your mind, like puzzles, crosswords, or books. It helps reset your mind and keeps it busy but in a healthy and enjoyable way.
- Take time out to meditate. Align your thoughts and mind to focus on what you need to do. A good 10-minute break to meditate will help shift your mind into a better place and lifts your brain fog.
- Lastly, get enough sleep. Adjust your sleep schedule to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep each night, and try to sneak in a nap during the day or your shift. It will help improve your concentration and reduces the risk of making impulsive decisions. When your mind has rested, it can help you see things more clearly.
When Should Nurses Seek Help for Their Mental Health?
Stress is almost synonymous with being a nurse. It comes with the job, and while many can adjust, some find it difficult to ask for help. So, when should you ask for help? Nurses are resilient people, but burnout can also take a toll on them.
Nurses should seek help once they’ve developed these signs and symptoms:
- Rapid heart rate
- Muscle tension
- Headaches or frequent migraines
- Difficulty breathing
- Having nightmares
- Trouble sleeping for days
- Quick to anger or irritability
- Feelings of guilt
- Confusion or trouble concentrating or staying focused
- Have difficulty remembering instructions
- Being forgetful
Nurses with more pronounced mental health issues may also experience depression, inability to cope, and social withdrawal. They may also feel compassion fatigue or experience burnout, leading to a lack of empathy for patients. When you’ve experienced these symptoms, seeking professional mental health assistance or support would be best.