The Patients Are Fine. But What About Us?

  1. THE PATIENTS ARE FINE. BUT WHAT ABOUT US?
    (From Nurses News Email for today)

    "The healthcare system may be better prepared to deal with bioterrorism
    victims than the traumatized frontline providers who give them care,
    according to a recent exercise conducted by the Ohio Senior Interagency
    Coordinating Group, in Columbus.

    After running a tabletop exercise involving the intentional release of
    pneumonic plague at a rock concert, emergency preparedness officials
    discovered there was little in place to address the mental health needs of
    doctors and nurses in the aftermath.

    "How do you handle all of the nurses and doctors who have seen many, many
    deaths, who have tried to decrease panic by remaining calm, and who have
    survived this huge confusion and turmoil? What about their mental health?"
    asks Kay Ball, a participant in the exercise and perioperative consultant
    and educator at K&D Medical in Lewis Center, OH. "Even in surgery today,
    if we lose a patient on the table, there is nothing really in place to
    talk about the trauma the practitioners are going through."

    In contrast, firefighters and emergency medical service workers had a more
    thorough stress-debriefing process than their hospital-based counterparts.

    "We just think that we are these stalwart people and we can't crumble
    under emotional strains. That was one of the [identified] weaknesses,"
    Ball says. "Within the hospitals themselves we really don't have the
    mental and spiritual health that we need.""
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  2. 9 Comments

  3. by   shsim
    Steph, I have been saying this for years. My nursing career (30 years) has led me to a couple of stays in the hospital for stress and depression. I really do feel that if there was some kind of debriefing, or group discussion about the traumas we do in our busy level 1 trauma center it would help us all alot. The only thing my employer offers is a couple of sessions with an EAP counselor, who can't even begin to understand what it is like!
  4. by   shannonRN
    wow, never really thought of it that way. you (they) are totally right!! makes me wonder if this could be part of the reason for such a shortage?!
  5. by   karenelizabeth
    Our unit has had a realy bad sickness record (III NICU) we've recently got a new manage who's alot more aproachable but the record is still bad, we do have a psycologist attached to the unit for staff and parents, you self refer and she sees people on an individual basis as well as organizing debriefings after traumatic events.

    I saw her last year after traumatic events at work (8 deaths in 8 weeks and one baby who kept trying to die while I was looking after her on nights) all while trying to study. It brourght back memories I had safely filed away of loosing my little girl at 20 wks ges and I got to the stage I couldnt comtemplate going to work.

    I'm not quite sure how helpful seeing her was, for me the essay I wrote about caring for the parents of dying babies and starting to talk about her to friends was much more helpful. But the debriefing sessions she has chaired have been great, they have got us all talking which helps a lot
    Last edit by karenelizabeth on Jun 25, '02
  6. by   teeituptom
    Howdy Yall
    From deep in the heart of Texas

    Debriefing sessions, we might get together afterwards and go to IHOP, pig out, and ***** away. Thats the closest Ive ever been to a debriefing session
  7. by   lindalee
    Debrief--surely you jest. When a patient dies, the only thing that matters is a fast clean on the room so you can admit the next patient. Nurses are supposed to be able to handle anything and do--until something in their own life opens the flood gates to emotions that you simply pushed back either to avoid feeling them at the time, or to avoid feeling them period. When my own parents' health failed it was like the floodgates to hell had opened. I believe that the grief I experienced was so severe because of the walled off emotions that I had simply not allowed myself to experience through more than 30 years of bedside nursing. I choose to leave my job in critical care and move on to a position where my patients are not terribly ill. This has allowed me to remain in practice, but I do feel that perhaps with better support in dealing with the daily death, trauma and emotional support required for my patients and families I might have had more emotional reserves and been able to remain at bedside in the critical care environment. I think nursing takes a severe emotional battering and we simply do not realize the extent it is impacting us until a personal event brings all the emotions to the surface and you can no longer avoid feeling them. I think many, if not all nurses have a wall of grief just below the surface and that when it breaks free, it is difficult to control. Perhaps this is just my personal experience, but I have seen it happen with several of my close friends also, so just because you are able to function, don't think the pent up, unfelt emotions won't at some future day come to the surface.

    I believe I am better off now that the emotions have been experienced, but will never again work closely with death and trauma. Be careful everyone, I expect there are many other nurses who delay feeling emotions and when the dam breaks it is a very difficult abysses to cross. Perhaps this is also part of the shortage. What other job takes this type of toll on its workers? I love nursing, and still love nursing but do think that all the grief around us in critical care, and nursing in general takes a severe toll. I did not understand this for many, many years. It would benefit hospitals to have a system in place to assist their staff in handling these emotions. Of course the problem is that if you push feelings back and don't experience them, you may not even realize they are still there waiting to surface. Maybe that is why this is so important; if you can get the small pieces of grief out of your soul before they build to huge pieces your emotional health would be so much better. Families have each other; formal services, and can openly feel grief. Nurses simply must get ready for the next patient and greet the patient and family with a professional smile. God forbid that you take a few minutes to regroup yourself and perhaps shed a tear or two at work. Of course we get involved with some of our patients and experience both grief and joy. This is part of nursing that makes it such a special profession. Yet this very part can become a problem if you can't find ways to dispel the building damn of pent up grief that waits behind your collected exterior self.
  8. by   Sleepyeyes
    Excellent topic and excellent posts, all. I'm coming to nursing late in life, and I'm glad to have strong emotional and spiritual roots, but frankly, I don't know how well I'd be holding up if we had a disaster.
    I imagine that I'd have to take some time off and rest, but beyond that....
  9. by   micro
    debriefing.....that is not allotted in the scope of practice....no time for that.........
    IHOP with you anytime, teeituptom
  10. by   BBnurse34
    If nursing was causing me frequent hospitalizations for depression and stress. I think I would work in telephone triage or Walmart instead
  11. by   teeituptom
    Howdy yall
    from deep in the heart of texas

    IHOP and GOLF, cant do without either

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The Patients Are Fine. But What About Us?