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Gypsy Moon Gypsy Moon (New Member) New Member

Nurses with PTSD

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Hi, I've been a nurse for over ten years, mostly working in med/surg. I've had multiple issues with different nursing supervisors and authority figures attacking me. It is difficult for me to deal with the constant quality improvement projects. I find the pace and the work to be overwhelming at times, and am hypervigilant at work, always trying to do a good job.

Almost 2 years ago, I discovered that a lot of my problems are a result of chronic PTSD which started in my childhood from my verbally abusive, alcoholic father, and living in a codependent family. I've worked through a lot of it in therapy, done EMDR which is helpful, try not to take things personally, I even got an MSN in leadership hoping to change the environment where it is a positive environment but I haven't yet been able to promote to a leadership role, even as a charge nurse.

For the past year, I've been working per diem, part-time and writing a fiction novel. I have been questioning my calling to nursing for almost two years now, don't seem to be cut out for this job.

There are a lot of things that I find to be triggers, from the hectic pace to how things are always going wrong - can't find working equipment, meds not in the right place, patients need a bunch of stuff every time I go in the room even though the CNA was just in there, constant programs of improvement adding more and more duties even though we can't get all our breaks in, patients are sick, in pain, needy, constant interruptions on the phone (pager, call light, people just grabbing you in the hallway, etc). I even think that the work depletes my life force somehow, that somehow God is able to use my energy to help people because I am so exhausted by the work. Also, none of my patients have ever coded. I've had some people on end of life care actually pass away. But really only a couple.

I continue to retraumatize at work and actually got sent home the other day because I said, look, I'm having a lot of PTSD symptoms today. I woke up at midnight, unable to get back to sleep. The last 2 days have been really hectic. Then when I start my shift, I have a 5 patient assignment, 2 of the IV's are bad, 2 of them are in bad pain, 1 of them running a fever of 39.1C, so in the first hour I'm just putting out fires and will be an hour behind on my regular expected work. Then the charge nurse has to coach me that it doesn't make the patients have confidence when I am spinning in the room like that. Come to find out the licensing body people were on site - probably I am picking up empathically everyone's stress. I find it all to be very dissatisfactory.

Does anyone else find themselves having PTSD from the environment? Since my Dad was hard on us, it really affects me because I am always trying so hard to do a good job and it is never good enough. I fail every day.

Anyway, I'm almost finished with my novel. I doubt that I'll be able to quit nursing right away from that hobby, but I do feel more called to writing fiction than to nursing for the past two years. It doesn't seem to be any better at work. I find I can manage the PTSD for the most part working part time. But I have to say no a lot to picking up shifts or working back to back shifts, or double shifts. I really have to work very hard to destress between shifts.

These nurses who say they love their jobs, I just don't get it. Who are these people and what jobs do they have? Are there med/surg nurses out there who love their jobs and why? Like I said, I don't think I'm in the right field of work. I like when things go smoothly, not at a frantic pace and when I can connect with my patients and when leadership is thankful for the work I do and realistic about expectations. That is not nursing.

Edited by Gypsy Moon

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Have you considered changing to another area of nursing outside of med surg?

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I have PTSD.

I have many posts describing how I've handled PTSD for years on this site.

My PTSD is a result of being a domestic violence survivor; I also am a gun violence survivor-my exempted abused me shot me seven times point blank.

I found working in an emergency room actually helped my PTSD...maybe it's the compartmentalizations, short term tenure with patients with the options of discharge, admit, or other side and the variety of patients that's given me the energy to maintain my love of nursing-I honestly don't know.

And yes, I see gun shot wound victims, stabbing victims, burns, abuse, rape, and I'm not triggered...I maintains my professionalism and it may be due to my own therapeutic coping mechanisms in place. I have been under EMDR therapy for six years now and it has done WONDERS for allowing me to stay in nursing when I wondered if I was going to. I also engaged in medication mangament for ten years-I've had PTSD for about ten years; my event happened ten years ago-and that has helped as well.

I've gotten to the point where I don't need medication as much and have a psychiatrist monitoring the situation as well.

Very few people that I work with know I have PTSD...and I chose those people for a reason because the subject was broached or they saw my scars, etc...but no one has approached me about it and I prefer it that way; having PTSD, in my experience and people knowing about it undermines that I can do a good job-and I have been judged harshly for it in the past.

I have also involved myself in expanding my practice, mentoring other nurses and involved in union activity; pushing the envelope in order to find solutions with fellow nurses has extremely helped; sometimes the structure of the business of healthcare treats us like abused individuals, makes one feel voiceless and the cycle of how management can treat you can be a problem and can mess with someone who has trauma; being a healthcare activist has certainly helped me even more empowered than ever before.

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I have anxiety and PTSD from childhood abuse and a rape in adulthood.  I also work med-surg.  There have been a few times where I felt the intensity of the shift start to trigger me but every time I was able to keep it under control.  I think the culture of the place you work will make or break any stress that comes with the territory.  The support of your coworkers and management mean everything!  Sounds to me from what you said that this place isn't very supportive and there might be a lack of work ethic too.  Don't get me wrong, med-surg is tough and might not be the right place for you but, from my own experience, having a solid team around you can make it doable.

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