Nobody is immune to mental illness. While mental illnesses are a state or condition that involves remarkable changes in one’s emotions, thinking and behavior, reflected by a deviation in getting daily living activities done, and suffering relationships, it is of no question, that this needs intervention. What leads one to have psychological issues? And as for caregivers, who are supposedly on the other side taking care of the affected patients, are they, too, prone to experience such as they walk side by side their patients daily?
Endorsing a patient as shifts begin and end is a process in which one nurse gives a co-nurse a rundown of the nursing care and medical interventions done to the patient within the past shift. Usually, it lasts 8 hours, but some get deployed to night shifts that could last 12 hours. It should stand manageable if they gave out a notice before. Most often than not, it is to cover somebody who didn’t show up.
While nurses stay professional, benevolent and vigilant in doing their job, they face daily challenges that continuously push them to their limits. They dedicate their lives to alleviating other people’s health without realizing that they get compromised in the process. Highlighting the five most common occupational issues nurses face daily helps one understand how each day is a battlefield.
1. Nurse-Patient Ratio
Inadequate staffing is a long-standing issue that never got resolved. While it is not uncommon in most professions, it just, but causes minor inconvenience to them. But this comes across as unacceptable in nursing as every minute is a matter of life and death.
Before the COVID pandemic had struck the world, there was already a shortage of nurses across the globe. In 1854, Florence Nightingale founded Nursing as she went through a challenge on how to take care of the victims of war.
The USA reported an emerging nursing shortage as early as in the 1930s. As of this writing, the US death toll due to COVID reached the global highest number with 400,103. The number of nurses falls short even more, according to the NBC News,
The ICU or the Intensive Care Unit, as its name suggests, provides monitoring at 15-minute intervals. The ideal patient-nurse ratio in the ICU of 1:1 gets defied so much because of the very reason – insufficient staffing. Expanding your thought on nurses who had to attend to 3 ICU patients per shift at 15 minutes interval would give you a picture of how stressful it could get.
Considering the number of COVID patients that come in each time in hospital facilities and emergency clinics, it is immeasurable as to how much these nurses expose themselves, including their families to the virus, as they go home. And the stressful responsibilities that go with it. Such an arrangement leaves nurses with little time for food and water on top of providing them care – alleviating the sick that compromises the physical body that makes all these nursing jobs possible.
2. Mandatory Overtime
Working long hours belong in the nursing thesaurus undoubtedly. It is a statement well understood amongst nursing colleagues which results in a domino effect. Because of a job turnover, inadequate staffing (as explained above) and other reasons (like heeding for promotion), overtime happens. Among medical professionals, anything that puts the body on chronic stress poses a threat, not only on one’s physical health but also, mental.
This problem was already existing even before the pandemic happened. Such predicament paves the way to human errors, pushes away nurses from practicing bedside care, and disregards the importance of giving 100% in providing patient care. Expect fatigue and burnout from such awful nursing practice.
3. Compromised Safety
PPEs could hold as much. But with evolving strains, no nurse is exempted from getting affected and getting compromised because of exposure alone. With the stress building up as well, immunity weakens. It’s redundancy to say, when the body doesn’t recover from fatigue and the mind from getting burnt out, defense barriers are also more likely to go down. However, there is no better way of saying this. When one is not in the right state of mind, its ability to defend itself becomes weak. Its defense mechanism gets compromised.
There are also risks when handling needles, carrying patients, administering medications, and keeping up with time per se. It is dangerous for a nurse to look at herself as a culprit of error. But there are times, they get to that point of getting limited due to fatigue and chronic stress.
4. Violence and Abuse in the Workplace
Work-related assaults do exist, resulting from violent behaviors of patients, clients, and even co-medical professionals. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wrote in its Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Workers that these cases are increasing. But with no specific diagnosis or type of patient that could predict such future susceptibility to violence, it was generalized that nursing providers in the following areas are at the highest risks:
- Long-term caring facilities for geriatrics
- Inpatient and acute psychiatric facilities
- Social services (residential and day services)
- High-volume urban emergency departments
Compared to those who work anywhere else, say in the entertainment, clients are well in coming into a bar, or a theme park. Flight attendants may have their complaints too, but the people they serve are in a state of bliss because they may be travelling for the holidays. They are to see something new, so there’s an excitement that is there already.
On the other hand, hospitals are one of the places people dread going to. Nobody would go there unless they’re sick or dying. The nurses, being the recipient of all the aches and pains that back up clients’ wellness complaints, deals with this every single working day. It would be a need to see a professional therapist at this point to let go of excess baggage when it wasn’t supposed to be yours to own.
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But nurses’ primary job is to care for their patients. Strongly, they understand how ‘talking it out’ may be just the thing you need to do.
5. Balance regard for Oneself
Self-care is an essential stress management tool. As Wendy Mason, PhD goes en pointe in saying, “Nursing can be a traumatic field to work in,” it just is logical to say, you need to take care of yourself before taking care of others.
Self-care is one’s ability to acquire physical, mental and spiritual well-being. It is the key to thriving, adaptation, and resilience. In any field of work, having a balance relieves stress, replenishing a nurse’s capacity to provide compassion once again and empathy towards patients, improving the quality of care it can give.
In an article published in the American Journal of Critical Care, self-care remains vital as a stress-reliever. It may be impossible to aspire for a vacation, but the good news is its effect lasts long if experienced in increments. Allowing time to pass in cooking, gardening, meditating, chatting with friends, working out, watching TV, reading a book, and even napping could do wonders.
Effects of Chronic Stress
While all of these are manageable, knowing its effects could help you formulate the right intervention and timeline.
- Being exposed to these kinds of stressors may put a nurse in chronic affectation. When there is a continued high level of stress in the body, it could lead to a certain degree of wear and tear. The lingering effects of monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) result in low levels of the happy hormones easing messages to and from neurotransmitters, which could serve as the medical explanation of depression creeping in.
- As for the immediate effect of stress response, it sharpens our wit and serves as a lifesaver. Although, continued activation of the nervous system would cause it to wear and tear. It goes the same with the respiratory system itself will be continuously tense. We tend to breath harder and quicker to distribute oxygenated blood. Blood travels to the vital organs and the limbs to help the body turn away from a threat.
- Progressive affectation into the mental could lead one to compensate by having panic disorders. There could be a traumatic impact that could lead to the development of anxiety disorders or even phobia.
- Untreated progressions in mental affectation may leave one with no job. As nurses must deal with client disorders, infection, compromise, and demise, a quality of resilience are vital.
Having the Right Mindset
Awareness is the key to knowing whether one needs help in tackling internal battles. There is no powerhouse like that of your mind in reaching a state of wellness. Sure, getting injured, being physically hurt could be something limiting. But somehow, it heals up when the mindset is determined.
BetterHelp Online Counseling
BetterHelp provides professional therapy, accessible and affordable wherever you may be. It aims to take away the mind from negative thought patterns and become more open to accepting changes and allowing stimuli to retrieve reactions, whether good or bad. For awareness’s sake, knowing is much better than not, to decide on the best intervention needed.
Dealing with stressful events by tapping into the reality of facing such issues allows yourself to grow from it. When everything becomes too much to handle, know that there is help that you can access anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances. Anyone who struggles with life’s challenges may consider BetterHelp, an online therapy service that has access to trained, experienced, licensed therapists who specialize in a variety of areas including marriage therapy, family therapy or LMFTs, board licensed professional counselors (LPC) and clinical social workers.