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

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. Nurses Stress 101 Article Video


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 in 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 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 super humans.

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?

Specializes in Medical-Surgical / Palliative/ Hospice.

I have been a floor nurse for nearly fifteen years. It seems like the profession has turned from a mutual respect relationship between nurses and patients, to a demanding, kiss-my-butt-or-Iʻll-give-you-a-bad-score relationship, and I wonder why nurses even need a degree anymore. Why do I need a degree if Iʻm just going to do what my patients want anyway, regardless of what the doctor has ordered or what is good for them? I feel like management doesnʻt have our backs anymore, and itʻs all about "get those scores higher". Itʻs really tough to do your best every day, sacrificing your own health and happiness, only to be told itʻs not good enough.

Wow, that was a little off-topic. Iʻm having a bad week!

I relax on my days off, swimming, journaling, napping, reading... I tried management, and while my body felt better, my mind felt WAY worse. Travel nursing used to keep me from getting burned out, but itʻs not as glamorous as it used to be. Precepting helps me feel like Iʻm making a difference.

Great posts, everyone, Iʻm always so relieved to come to this site and know that Iʻm not alone!

Day off is day off. Let your phone go to voice mail. I love to read. Books that are light are nice choices.

If you craft, garden, knit, bake--whatever it is you love to do--do it. And nap.

I can not stress (

Soak your feet, and paint your toenails purple. If you feel like going out--get a shampoo and blow a place that does scalp massages.

Don't for one second think about the would have could have should haves of your work. You can think about that when you go back.

Specializes in ICU.

I guess I am the opposite of most of you... I am way more stressed when I have days off and time off. I typically work between 60-72 hours a week between my two jobs.

When I'm working, I get home, sleep, get up, and work. When I'm off work, well... there's Netflix! And going out to the movies! And... eating dinner by myself in nice restaurants where everyone else is with someone. And attempting to go get a drink alone at a bar and getting chased out by a creeper that won't stop hitting on me. And taking vacations by myself if I really start to feel restless... yeah, working is a lot less stressful than all that. At least I have meaningful interaction with other human beings at work.

For some people, even with all the staffing stress, patient stress, obnoxious family members, etc., working is a lot less stressful than being at home. So, I cope with the stress by signing up for a lot of extra shifts. It might not work for everyone, but it certainly works well for me.

Specializes in Med-Surg.

I was once there. With the never-ending stress from patients and annoying family members, disorganization, short staffing and bad management, and dramas among coworkers, I grew to hate my nursing job in just short 5 months. So, fast forward, it's been almost 3 years since I joined this profession and worked for the same hospital. I have to say striving for a work-life balanced life doesn't seem an impossible goal after all ? So what I do?

1) I stay positive. I choose to mingle with only confident and cheerful staff who always stay upbeat.

2) I master my prioritization and organization skill. Because I want to have a proper break and to go home on time.

3) I ask for help. I'm no saint. I never think that I can get all the jobs done alone. Honestly, attempting to be a hero and doing it all yourself is just pride talking.

4) I don't do callbacks. I don't work double shifts. When I'm off, I'm off.

5) I'm lucky to have some nice and funny coworkers and a good nurse manager as a team. The floor is busy everyday, but we still make jokes and laugh and have pot-luck together. That makes work less stressful.

6) I take good good care of myself. Example: I would give myself a five-minute short tea break, even if the floor is very busy and I have no time to have a proper break. Go to the pantry, sit down, have some toasts and a cup of orange juice. When I'm in-charge of the floor, I make sure all the staff have their proper break, finish their food before coming out of the staff room. Starving myself and working my butt off just doesn't do the justice. I too have the right to take care of my health. How am I going to care for others while I am emotionally and physically sick?

7) I don't take things personally. The moment I sign off, I leave my work at work. Whoever gives me an unreasonable hard time, I do the old trick--this ear in, that ear out. If I took every criticism or mistake personally, I would have not just committed career suicide but real suicide.

? I give myself the credit I deserve. When a patient thanks me, I always accept it and say, "you're welcome." Because I indeed have done a good job and I deserve the recognition and gratification! :laugh:

9) I divide my annual leaves and take them 3 times a year. I have 3 major long vacations and 2 mini long weekend-like holidays. It works very well for me. This way I allow myself to have constant refreshment instead of saving all the goods in the end and then realizing before that time arrives, I burn out.

10) I have a life outside of nursing. Nursing is my profession, but it's not the whole of who I am. I don't use what I do for a living to validate my values and self-worth.

11) I keep in touch with friends and family. Surround myself with smiling, positive people who have absolutely nothing to do with work.

12) If I had a real bad day at work today, I would do something such as yoga, watch a movie, talk to close friends... whatever to make myself feel better.

There you go. They work very well for me ?

Specializes in geriatrics.

One way to ensure work-life balance is to know your own limits. Some weeks there are endless requests to work OT. If I feel like it, I will otherwise I don't answer the calls.

The nursing shortage was not created overnight. If the powers that be wanted to improve staffing ratios, they would. It's a chronic issue. Know when to say no.

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory.
tokmom said:
I think nursing journals DO need to push work/balance mindset. You CAN have both. It find my self very balanced in my job, even though I do committee work on top of my normal 36 hours. My balance is not answering the phone on my days off, and making sure my off days are truly *off*.

Nurses need to be cognizant of their emotional well being and if it takes beating it into their heads that they need to balance life, then so be it.

I commend any nursing magazine that educates about burnout, over and over again. The word has got to get out, or the trend will continue.

You're right. Until we find more ways to empower ourselves, we will suffer. I was cynically seeing the journal articles as preaching to people who aren't in much position to change things. At the same time, I was frustrated with nurses who refuse to speak up for themselves.

So you're right; if nurses' mindset can start changing for real, maybe we will finally start empowering ourselves. Thanks for the better perspective.

36 years in nursing and I feel as though I am walking on eggshells every time I go to work. When is that notice coming that I am being layed off or let go or even fired for some insignificant reason. There are so many things that take us away from the bedside I often wonder if it is even worth it anymore. I love taking care of people, that is why I stay. Looking forward to retirement though.

The way I cope now is to pace myself. I work regular hours (8 hour shifts) as a per diem 2/3 days/wk and say no to staying late unless it will work out at home (where there are other very physical responsibilities). I do per diem so I don't have to take call but unfortunately have to buy my med/dental insurance just a couple/three more years before retirement.

I became certified as a med transcriptionist too so that if I cannot take nursing anymore physically/emotionally etc. I have another source of income, however a drop in income it would be.

As I've gotton older I have learned to pick my battles and not get sucked into alot of drama as have observed through the years that alot does not change. I am not saying not to try and do stay positive, but do pace yourself and only take on what you can handle; know your limits.

Our hospital - a level 1 trauma center - is trying to become a magnet hospital with a goal of 100% BSN nurses. In the ED on nights we are chronically understaffed , stressful in itself but some of the new hires have no critical care or ED experience. To manage stress I keep work and home well separated.

Specializes in Geriatric/Sub Acute, Home Care.

Try dealing with an Irate Medical Director who is so lazy he depends on the nurse to really totally evaluate the patient so he can order his meds and treatments, even when they are complaining about chest pain the need to send them out is critical!!!.....and who YELLS at you for being incompetent, hangs up because he doesn't want to wait to be transferred on the phone and rushes you through YOUR assessment of the patient because HE HAD A BAD DAY.........worst doctor I ever encountered in my entire career....

Specializes in ICU, PACU, OR.

The divide between managers and bedside nurses is growing. More responsibilities with less support-the scoring, the specialty nurses who believe that their specialty should be a priority and the onus is on the admitting nurse. Very little time to give appropriate documentation, and the endless additions without any subtractions. And the managers still ask, "What is it that is keeping you from documenting effectively, accurately and timely?" We have said the problems many times over and it's like beating your head into the wall. "Is it the workflow?", "Is it the lack of support?", "Is it the redundant documentation?", "Is it the acuity of the admitted patients?", "Is it the lack of staffing so that you can't grant you enough time get your training done?", "Is it that we are so short that I can't approve your vacation request?" YES YES YES YES and again YES. The answer is-get out of the way, simplify the documentation to adequately reflect the care, or physically and clinically strong to stay adept enough help out. Listen to the nurses in the trenches. There is too much time spent on trying to meet an unrealistic interpretation of the mandates by regulatory agencies that control the money. There are ways to think creatively to make the nurses' work easier, more meaningful and less stressful. Nurses "own" skin breakdown???? Not if you can't get away from the computer enough to turn the patient or get them up out of bed. Nurses spend a tremendous amount of time thinking of workarounds-just to get the amount of work done to find that balance between work and life. Now that's a problem. Just think, if patients had more nurse time, the satisfaction scores would be higher and the quality would be better-now find a way to make that happen. That's the 10 million dollar challenge.

Yup. Being a nurse used to mean caring and being the advocate for patient with bedside manner that the Dr. Didn't provide. Unfortunately, we have been made to work as factory workers on a production line.