Coping with Tragedy and Grief as a Healthcare Professional

by Howard Gerber on August 4, 2016

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tragedy in healthcareIf you turn on your nightly news, you’re likely to hear headlines about murder, war, and other tragedies. In recent years, terrorist attacks and violence at some protests have also been occurring. With 24/7 news coverage and instant access to current events through social media, we are bombarded with images of inexplicable tragedies.

But we don’t just hear national news stories about tragedy and heartbreak. Tragedies occur in cities and towns throughout the country, even in our own communities.

Healthcare professionals are often on the frontlines caring for people who have been injured by violence, accidents, or illness. Although healthcare workers are professionals, they are still human, and dealing with grief and tragedy can take its toll.

Whether you are a nurse, doctor, therapist, or other healthcare professional, you may deal with your own share of difficult and sad situations, and it can get tough. But there are things you can do to prevent becoming overwhelmed.

Focus on the job at hand, and keep your emotions in check.

You don’t have to block out your emotions. After all, you don’t want to lose empathy for people or become uncaring. Instead of blocking emotions, you need to learn to cope with them and do the job you have in front of you. Focusing on your job duties and trying to stay positive can not only help you cope and get through the day, but can also help patients cope with tragedies and keep them feeling positive as well.

Get support.

If you have been a healthcare professional for a long time, you may have become used to sad situations and human suffering. In some instances, people become numb to tragedy. But even those who think witnessing the unimaginable is something they can handle can find themselves needing support at some point.

The good news is help is out there. Most hospitals have employee assistance programs where you have access to counseling and support services. If you’re involved in an extremely rough situation, such as a mass casualty incident, consider attending a debriefing if your hospital holds them.

Don’t dwell on the negative.

Coming home from work and turning on the news to hear about mass shootings or terrorist attacks will not help lift your spirits after a hard day. That doesn’t mean you have to bury your head in the sand and not know what is going on in the world. But consider taking a break and doing something relaxing before hearing about hardships throughout the world.

Leave work at work.

If you’re a healthcare professional, you probably enjoy helping people. That may be one of the reasons you went into your field, but the reality is that you can’t help everyone. Whether it is a child who had an accident or an adult who was shot, some patients don’t make it.

Being unable to help someone can be difficult to deal with, but it’s essential to leave work at work. That doesn’t mean you don’t evaluate your performance and strive to do the best job possible. It just means you find positive ways to recharge and not think about work. Spend time with your family or friends, play sports or exercise. It really doesn’t matter what you do in your downtime, as long as it is not unhealthy and it helps you unwind.

 

What helps you cope when tragedies occur? Please give your insight in the comment section below.

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