Support: nurses need it, too

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Who listens to you about the stress of being a nurse? Do you have to think hard when I ask you that?

As nurses we always preach to our patients about how they need support—we even go so far as to become their main source of support in a non-enabling way while they are hospitalized. We advocate for them, educate them, hold their hand when they laugh, cry, birth new life, and yes, pass away from this life.

Yet I’m beginning to understand how we as nurses require support of our own. And not just from our co-workers or the hospitals we work at—heck, we need even more support when we aren’t getting it at our place of employment!

Would you agree with me when I say that lack of support outside of the work environment may be a major contributing factor to burn-out? I think so. Look at the people around you who have no one to lift them up when they go home after a grueling 12 hour shift. How do they cope when life outside of work fails to buoy them up? I’ll admit it, I can’t do this nursing thing by myself. Nursing wears me out. I LOVE it, but it can be draining. Having made a point to identify support for myself, I use it all the time. I have actually asked, point blank, some people in my life to specifically be ears when I need to vent about my life as a nurse. For me it is my husband and my mom—both of whom I can talk to at any time about anything. Both of them allow me to cry, rant and have a fit—and they love me despite it all.

But were they unable to do this for me, I would search out new support. And I’m not above hiring support. Yeah, I’m talking therapist! Worth every penny, IMHO.

The more I look around, though, the more I see people supporting me in not so obvious ways. Like my friends who casually ask how work’s going (yeah, they don’t really get it, but it’s the thought that counts). Or my 11 year old who gives me a shoulder massage when I get home from work at 8AM. And my priest—he listens to my confession when I fail at being ok. My manager is also super-supportive even when she is time constrained (and God bless supportive, good managers!).

These are the people that recharge me and make my job doable when it feels unbearable. And I share my joys with them as well. Who supports you as a nurse? Do you need even more support? Look around and don’t be afraid to ask.

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