Why stress matters in the nursing world

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I recently had an interview for my first job as a Nurse Practitioner when I graduate this spring. It was a whirlwind of a day, let me tell you–nothing like the typical interviewing process I grew accustomed to over the years. It was more of a marathon than a sprint. I believe I met and interviewed with at least six different key players that I would be directly involved with at the job.

I’m not here to talk about interviewing tips, or the interview itself (although I can proudly say I got the offer and I accepted); I’m here to discuss one aspect of the interview.


I was asked, “How do you deal with and/or relieve stress.” My immediate response was, “I exercise.” Which was an honest and very real answer. I make a valiant attempt to exercise, at the very least, three days a week.

What struck a chord with me, though, is how others answer this question. Do they answer it quickly, do they have to think of their answer, make up an answer, or jokingly quip that they don’t have any stress?

If you claim you have no stress in the world, then you are just lying to yourself and those around you. AND, if you’re a nurse claiming that you have no stress, you need your head examined!

Stress and stress management is as much a part of nursing as taking vital signs. You either deal with it in a healthy manner, or you avoid it in the most unhealthy ways.

Employers want to know how you handle stress. Do you admit to having it, and how do you ensure it doesn’t wreak havoc on you personally and professionally? Because, let’s face it, enough stress can break a person down to the point where they cannot do their job, or worse yet, become a damaging, irreversible disease.

My take-home message is this: Answer this question for yourself and be honest about your answer. If you don’t know the answer, seek help in answering the question, and then seek help in managing that beast we call stress.

We need nurses to be at their very best, and from one nurse to another, I want you to survive and thrive. Don’t live in denial and surely don’t live in misery.

There are a myriad of negative coping mechanisms that aggravate and worsen stress, but in my humble opinion, there is no wrong way to help reduce it. The only wrong way to deal with stress is by not recognizing and actually dealing with it. Period. I choose exercise. Maybe you enjoy reading a good book, playing a game, talking with a friend, going for a walk, sitting on the porch, blogging, writing in your journal…the choices are endless. Find something you enjoy and use it.

Yes, I’m minimizing this greatly, I never said stress management was easy. While I don’t think any of us ever will completely eliminate our stress, we sure as heck can keep it under control through good coping mechanisms and genuine support.

Hang in there.

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