Help....I Can't Take it Anymore!!! - Nurses Coping with Stress

  1. 20

    Do you have those days when the stress of your job just makes you want to scream?? Maybe you do scream….but hopefully not at your co-workers….and certainly not at your patients. But what do you do. How do you cope?

    We all know that nursing is a stressful profession. We don’t own the market on stressful jobs. But the source of our job stresses come from a different source that may elevate us higher up the ladder. The consequences of us missing a deadline can be much greater than a business person who misses a deadline with a report. We are dealing with human lives.

    We may forget the various levels of stress that nursing places on our bodies. Physically, our job can be very demanding with stresses placed on our muscles, resulting in various aches and pains. Mentally, we have to be on our toes, constantly alert, as we go through our day of multitasking…...administering medications, caring for patients of different acuity levels, addressing questions from patients and families, etc. We feel the emotional impact of stress as we are continuously working in an environment where there is pain and sadness.

    Sure there are other parts of our jobs that cause stress…….schedules, salaries, bosses, co-workers, etc. But, when you think about it…..the bottom line is the patient…..a human being. Providing competent and compassionate care to PEOPLE is at the very heart of nursing. The inability to do this in a manner that meets our personal and professional criteria is at the base of much of our stress.

    Stress is pretty much a constant thing our lives. Although stress usually carries a negative connotation, some stress is actually good, propelling us into positive action. Think about the stress of a code. I think that you would agree that a code places stress on the body. However this stress….the fight or flight response…. actually forces us into action to try to save a life.

    Let’s continue to look at the code as our example. You know how you feel after the code. Your body is still in the fight mode. You are still in high gear. But what happens if the code is unsuccessful, or if you know the patient’s outcome is very precarious. What if you are the one who has to deal with the family members. No one looks forward to that stressful situation. But, as professionals, we do our job and face the family.

    Let’s look at other stresses in our jobs. Staffing shortages are a major stressor these days. And what about changes in technology? You’ve just gotten used to one piece of technology, when someone (usually not a healthcare professional) decides to “upgrade”. We could go on and on with this list. But these stresses interfere with our productivity, and negatively affect the level of care provided to the patient. And that causes inner turmoil as we feel the emotional strain of not being able to meet our own criteria as a professional.

    Nurses are great at dealing with the stresses that come along. There is the belief that nurses should be able to cope with anything that comes along in their personal or professional domains. That comes with our nursing degree…..right?????? After all…..nurses are superhumans.

    This type of belief puts nurses in a box and makes it difficult for them to admit they are stressed to the max. Even though our friends and relatives who know us well try to tell us to “take care of ourselves”, we try to carry on. We keep on until we get to the point where we want to scream……”I can’t take it anymore!!!!!”

    Nurses need to realize that showing signs of stress is only normal. Nurse are, after all, part of the human race. There are limits to the amount of pressures we should be expected to endure. Admitting to being stressed does not mean that we are not coping. Just the opposite. When we realize our limitations, we can then start to look for better ways to cope more effectively with our stressors. If we can take care of ourselves, we will be better able to care for others.

    Have you gotten to the point where you just want to scream?

    What are the major stressors in your job?

    What are some effective ways you have found to deal with these stresses?
    Last edit by Joe V on Jul 15
    homelife, ToughingItOut, macawake, and 17 others like this.

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    About tnbutterfly, BSN, RN

    tnbutterfly has 'More than 35 years' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Parish Nsg, Disaster Nsg, Peds, Med-Surg'. From 'TN'; Joined Jun '06; Posts: 22,221; Likes: 12,839.

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    50 Comments so far...

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    I am not a nurse, although at one time I had aspired to be one. I truly admire the ability of the nurse to keep on keeping on despite the stressors. I know that sometimes when we do not feel well, like babies we get irritable. Handling patients and all their fears has to be a trying job. Thanks to all nurses, hoping that you always find ways to pamper yourselves.
    macawake, FutureNurseK, happyRN29, and 6 others like this.
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    Physically the job is easy but I am a mid 20s male who regularly exercises with no health problems.

    However, the job is beyond frustrating with most stressors coming from patients, families, previous shift nurses who are terrible and doctors who whimsically order things without even understanding the situation. YOu have to detach yourself with nursing or it WILL beat you down. I have perfected the "caring" look when a unruly patient wanting to go AMA complains about something inane and petty when I truly could care less. It's all a game, just do your job well and no one will care how you actually feel about "work".

    Also staffing, staffing sucks.
    malamud69, EnkeliRN, Nibbles1, and 17 others like this.
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    I feel the same way...I am new to the hospital setting and work on a short staffed unit...I cringe each time I have to go to work and I have a lot of stress because of work but I try to make the best of it...does it get better? I get told it will get better but does it really? Learning to adjust to this environment is really difficult...If anyone can offer advice to a new hospital nurse id be grateful...
  6. 11
    Yoga has been my best friend since nursing school...even jokingly saying WOOOSAH!!!! has positive effects on my psyche.

    In the fourteen years-whew!- I have been in healthcare, I can say that I do make a concerted effort to step back from the ledge when stressed; self-care has been so paramount in making sure I cope and enjoy this business even with all the issues that have came along in the past 20 years of healthcare; knowing that reality has made me practice locus of control exercises-what can I do? How can this be solved-along with knowing when to pick battles, on become a agent of change while learning the ropes, I've been fortunate to be a part of changes for the better, but that wouldn't have been without utilizing locus of control; it has certainly helped prevent burnout!
    SLHLPN, nbs45414, chills, and 8 others like this.
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    When I was a young bedside nurse the physicality of the work did not bother me much. Now, in my late 50's I find that my back, my knees, and my shoulders have taken a beating. I have spent way too much time assessing and treating patients in awkward positions and without adequate assistance.

    I fear for my younger peers who will likely need to work longer (in years) to qualify for their Medicare.

    Nursing jobs are diminished and endangered because health care administrators, with personal goals of great wealth, are making care decisions based upon patient satisfaction and other none outcome related things.
    brandy1017, ToughingItOut, macawake, and 6 others like this.
  8. 7
    My job is mentally taxing since I'm now managing a unit. The endless documentation and meetings make me want to scream some days.

    I walk every day and run at least three times a week. Sleep is also very important for me. I need at least 6.5 hours a night.
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    I snapped one time at a charge nurse because I had a heavy patient list and one patient that I felt needed a higher level of care.

    Patient is "basic" but needs to have IVIG for an auto-immune skin disorder. So basically I felt that I can not give my other patient's any attention while the IVIG is infusing because I am taking vital signs and assessing Q15 minutes (and it was Q15 for a long time because the patient was not tolerating the infusion).

    Explained ALL of this to the day shift charge, only to have the patient back that night and overhearing the day charge tell the new night charge that she didn't think the patient needed to be moved.

    Of course YOU don't, IVIG is every 24 hours, but I explained everything and then she acted like she hadn't a clue why it was a big deal.

    I know staffing ratios are much worse elsewhere, but for me I was very overwhelmed. I felt really bad about snapping too, I like to stay composed even under stress

    Edit: To answer the question, patient acuity for our floor is an ongoing issue as well as staffing. I find that your coworkers can make or break your night. Most times that I float it is miserable, but any day I'm on my home unit we pull through together. I find that having a good team and being able to tell someone that you're overwhelmed and they care enough to help makes a huge difference in how stressful the night is.
    Last edit by lrobinson5 on Jul 15 : Reason: Forgot to answer the question!
  10. 17
    Having gone off the ledge and away from the profession and back in again, I finally learned a few things about nursing in general and myself.

    1) if your unit sucks, then leave. I spent 16 years at my last job thinking it was bad everywhere, therefore I stayed and dealt with lack of teamwork and horrible staffing ratios.

    2) It is important for a nurse to take care of themselves. Exercise, journal, pamper yourself. My big indulgence is Starbucks for my Chai tea, lol. I also have crafts and gardening that I enjoy that take my attention away from family and work..

    3) Others stay sane by disconnecting from work, and yet some, like me, actually feel MORE engaged by doing committee work, and changing the work environment one project at a time. I always thought this mindset was sort of weird, but actually it is one burnout cure-all for a select few. I enjoy going toe to toe with managers during negotiations, lol. It's rather cathartic.

    So do whatever works.
    Last edit by tokmom on Jul 15
    tnbutterfly, onedayitllbeme, macawake, and 14 others like this.
  11. 7
    Nowadays you can't open a nursing journal without someone crowing about "work-life balance". I just roll my eyes. I do enjoy work-life balance now, working on-call at a minimally stressful job. But most of my previous nursing jobs ate my life. As long as hospitals keep pushing the staffing envelope, work-life balance is something many nurses can only dream of.


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