Stress Relief for Overstressed Healthcare Workers

by Angela Stevens on April 16, 2009

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You take care of patients all day, but who is taking care of you? Hospitals across the country are grossly understaffed due to lack of adequate funding, leading to sometimes unmanageable nurse-to-patient and doctor-to-patient ratios. Mandatory overtime places additional stress on healthcare workers who are already being pushed to their limits during the course of the normal work week. I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

Healthcare workers need to make sure they take care of themselves, but on and off duty. Taking two minutes to do some deep breathing in the supply closet may be the only break you get on the busiest days, but even that can make a big difference. Try to make time to decompress before and after each shift, and several times during, if you are able.

While you probably have demands on your personal time when you’re at home – cooking, cleaning, or spending time with your family – there are a few simple things you can do to take some time out for yourself. Enjoy a nice hot shower, and don’t allow any interruptions. Do something you enjoy doing for 15 minutes a day, whether it’s playing video games, reading a book, or knitting, even if you get home really late. Spend five minutes before bed doing some meditation or visualization exercise to help you relax and get your body ready for sleep.

Stressed photo by stuartpillbrow via Creative Commons

If you can’t make time to de-stress at home, you can de-stress during your commute. I like to listen to a few select CDs when I’m driving; after a particularly bad day, I’ve been known to sing along with the music very loudly. You can tense and release your muscles at stoplights – just not your leg muscles, or you might accidentally take your foot off the brake pedal! If you take public transportation, enjoy listening to music on your portable mp3 player or read a book. I enjoy doing crossword puzzles and sudoku when I have spare time, and I would definitely take a puzzle book along with me if there was public transportation available in my area.

On the job, your stress relief options may be limited. If staffing and patient volume allows, be sure to take all of your scheduled breaks. It can be frustrating when you aren’t able to take your breaks, so be sure to make the most of them when you do get them. Closing your eyes for a few minutes allows you to shut the world out for a short time. While you’re on the clock, you may be surprised to find out how liberating it is to keep a smile on your face. When you smile, it often makes other people smile. When other people are smiling, whether they’re your patients or your coworkers, things tend to go more smoothly. You may be able to defuse tense, stressful situations by remaining calm and pleasant instead of getting upset and escalating things.

If no amount of stress relief is going to help you cope with your current job, you may want to check out the opportunities available at Sunbelt Staffing, and find a better job!

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Sarah 04.16.09 at 11:44 am

I usually make sure I take at least one break to take a walk outside. Just spending 5-10 minutes clearing my head and enjoying the outdoors makes me feel like a human again! Sometimes I even bring my iPod so I can listen to some nice soothing music.

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