If there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s that not everybody is cut out for nursing. And while nurses are an exemplar of strength and character, the emotional and physical strain of everyday demands can and will take a toll on any nurse.
As nurses continue to raise flags, the pressure is on and hospitals are tuning in to address their needs:
Emily Roth sits in a café after a long weekend shift. The 27-year-old obstetrics nurse eats a sandwich and gushes about her 15-month-old daughter. Her smile puffs her cheeks up, lifting her brown rectangular-framed glasses away from her face.
Roth has been a nurse for three years and she loves her job, but she hasn’t always felt that way. “I was going home pretty stressed out on a regular basis. I would go home and cry to my husband sometimes,” she said.
Three months ago, she moved from a position where she’d been working with oncology patients. “(I saw) patients who were around my age with cancer, and dying, and taking that home and seeing my life and not being able to make their lives better…was taking its toll on me.” Roth explained that stress was part of her motivation to switch jobs.
Roth isn’t alone. A 2012 study produced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that in a sample of 2,500 nurses in North Carolina, close to 20 percent of them reported depressive symptoms—around double the rate of the general population. But critics say the sample size isn’t large enough to assume this is the case across the country and the profession.
The article goes on to highlight some fierce pain points…
Cindy Amalfi has been a nurse in a number of units. Over 30 years, she’s watched the extreme on-the-job stress cause burnout in many of her colleagues. “Sadness, death and dying, and then combine all that with long working hours, oftentimes rotating shifts, working night shifts, and also sleep deprivation, [and it] can all add to enhancing that trauma.”
So, what are hospitals doing to help?
An approach used at URMC can be found in many hospitals. After a traumatic incident or in the most stressful units of the hospital—like Emergency and Intensive Care—they hold debriefing sessions.
Farley-Toombs explains how they work:
“The debriefing session is to back people up. Each person telling what they saw and what they experienced in that process. And you begin to put together the whole picture and as people begin to be able to talk about it, it decreases the stress reaction, because you’re cognitively now putting words to your feelings.”
Along with the debriefing sessions, there’s counseling through the Employee Assistance Program, chaplain services, and other programs that encourage what they call “self-care.”
[The] New York State Nurses Association offers a program that helps nurses address problems with substance abuse without losing their licenses—through support from other professionals.
Hospital administrators say they’ve got to do what it takes to keep good nurses on the job.
Interested in reading more? You can find the full article here.
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