5 Ways of Coping with the Stressful Hospital Work Environment

by Howard Gerber on April 29, 2019

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 Nursing is a rewarding but often stressful career. The critical nature of a nurse’s work, caring for sick and sometimes dying patients and their families, is naturally stressful. But a workforce shortage means that nurses may also have to take on larger workloads than is ideal, creating extra stress. In travel nurse jobs, nurses may also be regularly learning the ropes at new hospitals. And because healthcare regulations are constantly changing, nurses must also keep up with paperwork and new policies, which can be even more taxing.

If you feel stressed out and burned out by your nursing job, you’re not alone. Burnout among nurses is a “public health crisis,” according to the American Journal of Nursing. Seven out of 10 nurses reported that they feel burned out in their current positions, according to a recent survey. All that burnout is a result of the physical and mental exhaustion that nurses feel as a result of greater emotional and moral distress as they’re forced to make more difficult care decisions while working longer hours with fewer resources and more interruptions and documentation tasks than ever before.

While nurse jobs may be stressful, they don’t have to be unbearable. Nurses and other healthcare workers can take some simple but valuable steps to help relieve some of the pressure of their jobs. When you’re working long hours and crazy shifts, or dealing with worrisome patients and difficulty families, these nurse stress relief tips can make your day easier to cope with and help you avoid burn-out.

Lean on other nurses for support. 

Every nurse needs a friend or colleague at work who will listen to you vent or share your thoughts and feelings. Sometimes in a stressful situation, you simply need to get things off your chest and then you’ll feel better.

It’s also important to have other nurse colleagues you can turn to for advice or information when you’re stressed out or unsure about what steps to take. “I consult with my colleague about anything I don’t know, such as high-risk drugs, it does not embarrass me to ask and I feel less stressed out,” one nurse told a researcher in a study published in the Journal of Caring Sciences.

Take breaks. 

Try to get a handle on what types of work situations create the most stress, anxiety and frustration for you—and minimize your exposure to them as much as possible. Of course, you can’t dismiss yourself from certain job duties, but you can limit interactions with people who stress you out. You may also be able to delegate some tasks or work with another nurse to help each other cover the tasks that are tough.

Also, find some daily rituals that help relax you, whether it’s deep breathing, yoga, meditation or prayer. And when your shift is over, try not to bring worries from the hospital home with you.

Take care of yourself. 

Anyone who spends their time taking care of others knows that it’s easy to neglect their own needs in the process. But you can’t do a good job taking care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself first. That means you need to prioritize your own sleep, exercise and healthy eating. Make time for all these healthy habits and balance your work life with hobbies or other personal pursuits that help you relax and unwind. Find a positive distraction from the hospital stress, whether it’s joining a book club, planting a garden or taking an art class.

Focus on your positive impact. 

When your job as a nurse gets extremely stressful, it can be easy to lose sight of the reasons you decided to become a nurse in the first place. So take time to remember the good things—the patients and families who truly appreciate your work, your ability to make solid decisions about patient care, and your continually growing knowledge of healthcare practice. When something especially good happens, or when a supervisor, patient or family member thanks you or expresses how your work has been beneficial, write it down and keep track of it. Revisit those praises and good experiences when you feel stressed to remind you of the positive impact your work has on others every day.

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