Nursing is a tough job. Long hours, working overnight and physical stress are accepted in the nursing community and are thought of as just a part of the job. While physical fatigue may be well known, compassion fatigue often goes unnoticed and can lead to emotional outbursts, substance abuse, and even clinical and legal problems.
While there are countless rewards with working with elderly and end-of-life patients and their families, the emotional stress can be great. According to a recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine by Leeat Granek, half the surveyed reported feelings of failure, self-doubt, sadness and powerlessness as a result of grief from their jobs. A third talked about guilt, loss of sleep, even crying.
Caregiving has its downsides and left untreated can cost the facility, caregiver and patient in countless ways. Referred to as secondary trauma, compassion fatigue happens when caregiver empathize with their patients to such a degree where it begins to cause them suffering in their own lives.
Nursing administrators can help by fostering an open workplace environment where staff is encouraged to participate in support groups and one-on-one counseling to express their emotions before they become an issue.
According the Royal College of Nursing in London, UK, there some things nurses can do independently to help alleviate on the job stress:
1. Work Hard, Play Smart – Lifestyle choices can reduce a tremendous amount of stress. Some activities include taking a scheduled vacation every year, proper diet, exercise and moderation.
2. Become your own expert – Take the time to identify personal stress points and think about new strategies to help you cope or alleviate the stress.
3. Stay Positive – A positive mental attitude and constant reminders of personal achievement can turn a difficult situation into a great one. Give yourself a pat on the back every once in a while.