The unofficial nurse stress-o-meter

A truly hectic day for a nurse pretty much redefines the word “stress.” That’s why it can be so hard to assess the level of tension you’ve reached at any given moment on the job.

To help you properly evaluate your state of mind, we’ve created a stress-o-meter by which you can rate yourself from 1 to 10—”1″ being fairly tranquil and a “9” or “10” being something more akin to a nuclear bomb.

We hope you find our system useful, if not completely ridiculous.


You’re at a 0:

Also known as “the unicorn state.” So uncommon that we couldn’t, in good diagnostic conscience, include it on the scale.

Aside from the absence of work-related stress, a “0” on the stress-o-meter indicates a full night’s rest, several days’ worth of lavish meals and real, exercise-induced energy. Possibly post-vacation.

Anyway, this is the most accurate depiction of “0” we could find. Sorry it’s not human:

You’re at a “1”

If you’re at a “1” on the stress-o-meter, the day has likely only just begun for you. Or you’re a lottery winner…on a sunny day.

At “1,” not only is the day young, but you also have fresh coffee, a parking spot near the entrance and your favorite people are on deck today. So things are kind of perfect, and even though you forgot your lunch at home…


You’re at a “2”

You see that the waiting room is full, but nobody is actively bleeding, and one mother (with unusually well-behaved children) even smiles at you. Needless to say, you aren’t too intimidated by an otherwise daunting sea of faces.

One might even say you’re invigorated.


You’re at a “3”

So all those fun and efficient people you thought you were working with? Several of those folks are out today (treachery!) and you’re officially understaffed.

You’ve seen worse, but your blissful workday has definitely suffered a setback. Determined to finish the last of your coffee before things get messy, you see that the box marked “decaf” on your cup is checked.

Fear sets in.



You’re at a “4”

Your first patient, complaining of persistent nausea, is one of those unusually well-behaved children you spotted earlier. You’re grateful for a calm, perhaps even pleasant start. Mom is chatty but mostly unperturbed.

Adorable patient #1 projectile-vomits on you. Mom is officially perturbed.

It occurs to you that things are about to turn sour.


You’re at a “5”

You’re moving as fast as those slip-resistant sneakers will carry you, but you’re failing to keep speed with an ever-growing list of patients. It’s like a bad dream—only you need to sleep to dream, and you can’t expect to do that for the next 17 hours (at least).


You’re at a “6”

This brings you to a full-fledged state of panic. Also known as the “stress-eating” phase, should you manage to find four minutes in the break room with anything edible.

Good thing it was somebody’s birthday…a week ago.


You’re at a “7”

There’s just beeping. Everywhere.

You’re trying to stay cool, but you feel like the hospital (and possibly your world) is crumbling around you.


You’re at an “8”

An hour ago you just thought the hospital was crumbling around you.

Now, it really, seriously is.

Otherwise stable patients are coding, somebody’s current and former wives have turned the waiting room into a cage fight and, worst of all, your last hair tie just snapped. Anarchy abounds.


You’re at a “9”

And that looks something like this…


You’re at a “10”

A “10” is an interesting rating. Sure, it marks the height of agitation on the stress-o-meter, but at a “10,” your state of mind is surprisingly calm.

While some might point to the word “catatonic,” we like to think of this moment as evidence that you’ve crossed over from a borderline manic state to just kinda dealing with it.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we are convinced that nurses really are the ultimate humans.


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3 Responses to The unofficial nurse stress-o-meter

  1. bchila

    Last Thursday was definitely a 10! 7 pts +1 admit, 2 falls, 2 pts getting blood. Worse day ever.

  2. Mrs. C

    28 patients and the first thing I hear is “admit coming”. One discharging. Student nurses in so charts signed out. The rest are lined up on desk with orders to transcribe. Down one CNA to begin with then another has a major medical issue right there and needs to leave. ( I’m told can’t even take his blood pressure -not allowed to by management) Phone ringing multiple times. Took an hr to finally get the daily schedule and VS list made-abbreviated version at that. Pts returning from appts with pages of new orders to get verified ,transcribed,and everyone notified who had to be (family, dietary, social services, Don,therapy,return appt calendar updated,etc). Admit and appt returnees all in door within 10 minutes of each other. An assisted fall, a skin tear to do assessments on,incident reports on, tx order for skin tear-fix him up-and dont forget to notify everybody- and CHART all that and put all that on acute charting list, 24 hr report.etc. This isn’t counting the pts who need nebulizer orders,more blood pressure meds, something for sleep, a change in bolus feeding orders, labs pulled,a Lasix order, a psych patient who needs a new med to help with how miserable he is, lab results to call to Md. And dont forget to notify everybody and-CHART! Oh and daily assessment on skilled patients and_CHART some more. And in all this I had the patient who was leaving and the family seek me out to give a tight hug to and thank me for all I’d done and called me an angel and another who said “Oh good – YOU’RE here.”My CNAs are the best and a nurse who worked her first day with us on our floor who was a trooper to say the least. If anyone hasn’t guessed I’m a charge nurse in rehab in a LTC facility. Love what I do, love my patients and my co-workers! Thanks for letting me me vent to begin with-but it turned into an affirmation of why I do what I do.

  3. ThreePalms