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Tips for handling the stress of on-call

Operating Room   (1,029 Views | 4 Replies)
by RNable RNable (New) New

697 Profile Views; 8 Posts

I'm a very new OR nurse (graduated from my PeriOp program less than six months ago) and I'm currently working in a small, rural hospital which runs 2 ORs and an endoscopy suite. Because we are chronically short-staffed, new periop nurses are required to take call shortly after finishing their program. I'm on call all weekend for our orthopedic team and for any c-sections that come our way. Typically, our on call team consists of two nurses, a scrub and a circulator, but because I'm orientating, they've given us a third nurse for support. 

I'd like to ask more experienced OR nurses how they deal with the stress of call; I've been trying to just go about my business while not doing anything that will be too challenging to extricate myself from; i.e. walking the dog, cleaning the house, and generally lying low. However, I found sleeping last night very challenging; I woke every couple of hours, checking my phone to ensure I hadn't slept through anything even though I knew my ringer was on maximum and I'm a light sleeper anyway.

I'm sure it will get easier with time, but I just wanted to ask what people do to calm themselves or stay grounded when on call.  Part of me knows that this is happening because I have a little bit of anxiety, another part knows that I feel that anxiety partially because I'm relatively new to the perioperative environment. Any suggestions welcome! 

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FurBabyMom has 8 years experience as a MSN, RN.

1 Follower; 1 Article; 794 Posts; 25,070 Profile Views

Know that it does get easier over time.   When I first started taking call, I was paranoid that I would miss a call, so I would check my phone like every two hours.  Somewhat irrational fear because in 7 years, the only time I've missed a call was when the charge nurse dialed the wrong number.  

Call is not my favorite part of my job, although it isn't the worst thing either.  If you get paid to sit at home and be on call a "mindset shift" might help you.  I used to use my call days (I work at a large institution and only took weekend call for a long time), as my "get the stuff I need to do but don't want to do done" time.  Reframing it and getting "paid" to sit at home and clean my house?

Once you've been called in, worked (even with cases you may be less familiar with), survived and escaped home a few times, you will get a little more used to it.  You just need to approach whatever situation might come your way the same as you do every other case, keep your routine as much the same as you can due to circumstances and you'll be fine.

Know that nobody loves being on call, and all of the people you're working with will likely be on call too.  

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Rose_Queen is a BSN, MSN, RN and specializes in OR, education.

6 Followers; 4 Articles; 9,036 Posts; 105,679 Profile Views

I downloaded a very loud, very annoying ringtone that I set for only the facility. There was absolutely no way to sleep through it- think tornado siren. The neighbors always knew when I got called in too it was that loud. 😳

It does get easier with time. I also would semi-restrict the activities I would do on weekends on call- mostly staying at home with a good book or a good movie, taking several laps around my cul-de-sac with the dog instead of our normal path that would take us a mile and a half from my house, and other things like that.

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8 Posts; 697 Profile Views

Thanks for the input! We did go in today and do a couple of cases. I was with more experienced nurses and so felt very comfortable with things. I think you're right,  @FurBabyMom; it's just going to take time to get a little more comfortable, but it will come. 

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267 Posts; 5,913 Profile Views

I could never get used to the anxiety of not knowing if/ when they would call. I felt like i couldn't really do anything. I found a position that doesn't have call it it helps me to enjoy my time off. 

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