Our Current Reality: Are You Going to Work Scared?

  1. Between actual bombings, mass shootings, and the threats of them, which happen daily, how do nurses on the front line of saving victims from these mass casualties handle going to work every day? No one ever knows when the next mass casualty is going to happen; does that make you scared sometimes to leave your families and go to work? If it doesn’t bother you, I would bet that it effects some of your colleagues.

    Our Current Reality: Are You Going to Work Scared?

    Every time there is some horrible mass casualty that happens anywhere in the world, we see immediate and intense video, usually raw footage, streamed live to our computers, TVs, and smartphones. All at once we are not only processing that something horrible has happened/is happening, but we are also visualizing the hysteria, loss, and destruction simultaneously. As nurses, we are not only seeing these things happen, but as soon as we realize it's either happening (or not) in our town, many of us are wanting to go right out and help. How often have you seen something horrible happen, like the Las Vegas shooting, Texas church massacre, or any other mass tragedy, and thought "It's not in my city, but what if it was?"

    According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can be brought on after surviving a dangerous event, having a friend or loved one involved in a dangerous event, or after the unexpected loss of life of a loved one. Less than half of these people will seek help for treatment of their PTSD. The VA National Center for PTSD reports rates of PTSD after bombings around 34% and mass shootings 28%, which are high numbers, considering the volumes of people impacted by each event. With all of these mass casualties happening annually and all of the visualizations of these acts of terror, I wonder if these numbers might start to jump even higher with the increase of mass casualty events, especially with healthcare workers?

    There are some people that are now afraid to fly after 9/11, afraid to go to concerts after the Manchester bombing and the Las Vegas shooting, afraid to send their kids to school after the Columbine and Sandy Hook shootings...need I go on? There are a lot of regular activities that people of all ages are afraid for their lives to do, because of possible bombings, shootings, etc. And then there are nurses and other healthcare workers that leave their homes every single day to go take care of other people, and when these mass casualties happen, we are expected to perform at the top of our abilities...and somehow not be focused on what might be going on with our families, letting them know we are OK, are they? What about the staff that suffers PTSD and have to go to work every day? Do you feel that way or know any colleagues that do?

    At most, if not all, hospitals, there are Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that can help anyone who may be suffering from PTSD related to these mass casualties. I think that as much as our job is to care for our patients, we also owe it to each other to look for these signs in our colleagues and either speak to them personally to try to get them some help, or talk to their manager to make sure that they speak to them and offer assistance. I had to do this just last week, and I really wasn't sure how the conversation would be received by a colleagues manager, but they had actually seen some changes in their employee's behavior and appreciated my feedback and the employee got the help they needed.

    According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the signs and symptoms of PTSD are:
    • Flashbacks (reliving recent trauma)
    • Frightening thoughts
    • Avoiding talking about the event(s) that caused trauma
    • Easily startled
    • On edge/tense/short-tempered
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Angry outbursts
    • Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
    • Distorted feelings of guilt or blame
    • Loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities

    Displaying even one or two of these signs can mean that you/your colleague may have PTSD. You don't have to have every single sign for a diagnosis, so if you notice these changes, especially noticing a change in temper or other behaviors, please speak up. Talk to your manager, a friend, a colleague, if you notice any of these symptoms in yourself, and get the help you need to get back to feeling yourself!

    We are on the frontline of saving people's lives when these are mass casualties, so let's make sure that we are all looking out for one another, taking into account our own mental health and our colleagues as we navigate through these scary times.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 14, '18
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    About Bridgid Joseph, BSN, MSN, APRN, CNS Pro

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  3. by   ~♪♫ in my ♥~
    Between actual bombings, mass shootings, and the threats of them, which happen daily
    I don't go to work scared nor do I live my life scared. The way I 'handle' it is by challenging statements such as this.

    Bombings and mass shootings are a rarity, not something "which happen daily."

    The odds of me or my loved ones getting caught up in one are very low, either personally or in a professional context.

    I am far more troubled by the recognition that my precious kiddo is very soon to be driving on the roads with so many aggressive, distracted, and intoxicated drivers. Now there's something to be legitimately frightened of.
  4. by   sevensonnets
    I refuse to allow fear to rule my life.
  5. by   Emergent
    People should not let media sensationalism affect their lives. Yes, bad things happen to good people. But, you're more likely to die early of a chronic illness triggered by eating too much junk food, than be a victim of a mass shooting.

    Remember, the press makes money often by pot stirring and fear mongering...
  6. by   elkpark
    Am I going to work scared? Nope.
  7. by   Bridgid Joseph
    I think it's great that so many of us are not impacted by mass casualties. For those of us who have been impacted (for me it was the Boston Marathon bombing and one of our MDs shot in a clinic by an enraged family member at an adjacent hospital and I've had family members and loved ones that have barely escaped) that may have a different perspective. I am fearful sometimes that this will happen again in my city,and I might not get home to my family, or that some of my close friends and colleagues may be injured. Tragedies happen every day in different ways and mass casualties is just one of them, and it's reassuring to know that maybe it's only the folks who have had a mass casualty in their city, and responded to them, are the ones that may be feeling PTSD. And, it's important to support our colleagues and loved ones who may need help.
    Last edit by Bridgid Joseph on Nov 30, '17