How do I develop good coping skills

Specialties NICU


Hello. I am a new NICU RN and I love my job. Everyday is exciting something new to learn and another wonderful day with our precious patients. But... I had an assignment the other day a normal everyday intermediate care assignment and I have been in a morose mood since... I had a 3 pt assignment and my co-worker had a 2 pt assignment. All of our pts had awful social situations for pt privacy sake I will abbreviate their situation. Pt 1 was born in the toilet and was named after the place where she was born YES I mean that place, she had a severe bout of NEC, and now is TPN/IL dependent, and has no family. PT 2 has teen parents, and required ultrasound to determine her gender, #3 teen parents baby has a severe cognitive syndrome, #4 baby has no name because parents are incarcerated and #5 will be good post gastroschesis with teen parents. So my question is how do you go home and not think about these poor souls. They say the longer I am a NICU nurse the more my coping mechanisms will help me with these sad situations but I need some advice. Thanks in advance.

My co workers and I vent a lot to eachother. And I think about the babies that go home to loving homes and do great. They are more the norm than the others.

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

This is where any "liberal arts" education you may have taken in the past can come in handy. It helps to have a strong personal foundation in the humanities (philosophy, religion, the arts, etc.) and social sciences (psychology, sociology, etc.) that can provide a foundaton for some deep contemplation on the nature of the human condition, your role in society, etc.

Suggestions such as venting, getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, socializing with friends, etc. are all great practical strategies for helping your body and psyche cope with the stress of work. They are very important and should not be taken lightly. You should invest some time and effort into those things to give yourself a healthy lifestyle that will facilitate recovery and renewal.

However, in the end, you will also have to confront the fact that life is not kind to everyone -- and NICU nurses see the sweetest little innocents suffer on a regular basis. At some point, you will have to come to terms wth that -- and that is where your spiritual beliefs and/or personal philosophy comes into play. You'll need to contemplate the "big questions" of life to further develop your philosophy so that you are comfortable with the role that you play in these situations as a NICU nurse. That comfort will serve as the foundation for your coping ... which will be given a chance to thrive as you engage in the "coping mechanisms" mentioned above.

Each aspect of coping is important: (a) the development of a personal philosophy that suports your work as a NICU nurse; and (b) the regular practce of a healthy lifestyle that includes stress management and renewal activties. Combined, they can help you to thrive in a stressful world.

NeoNurseTX, RN

1,803 Posts

Specializes in NICU Level III.

I have no clue how I do it but I leave work at work. Bad family situations may make me upset at the parents (and I'll vent AT work to, can you believe these people?) but once I go home, I don't really think about the kids at work. I've always been great at staying detached from patients though, even when I worked with adults. Granted, I remember them, but so far no emotional attachments; just doin' my job!

nkara, CNA

288 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surg/Pedi/Tele.

I work on an adolescent floor and still get younger kids with issues in the family and such. You just cope .. I don't know if it's experience or just venting with co-workers and doing the best you can while the child is with you?

I'm sure it will always get to you ... that is what makes us human right?


14 Posts

Try keeping a journal

Imafloat, BSN, RN

1 Article; 1,289 Posts

I just do the best I can for them while they are in my care. I try to bond with the parents so they don't feel judged and stay away from their baby. Make sure to get your kid a social service consult so that the parents can get plugged into as many resources as they qualify for. Things like this will make your patient's life a little better when they go home.

You can't fix the World, so just realize that and do what you can to make things better.


400 Posts

Specializes in interested in NICU!!.

i'm still in school, but my respects to all nicu nurses, y'all rock, and may god give y'all the strength in hard situations to cope with harsh situations. :redbeathe


4 Posts

I don't think that you are alone in worrying about how to cope. I am the type of person that always puts everything I have into caring for others. Although I am just starting my first full term of clinicals in the fall, I can already tell that this is going to be a huge issue for me as well. I'm sure that we will all develop our own ways of coping with the difficult situations in time. I agree with llg that the liberal arts degree will come in handy.

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