« Imagine Working as a Nurse in 1889! | Main | Change of Shift -- Video Version »

November 12, 2008

Are You Tending to Your Own Emotional Needs?

Pain3.72x84[1]  How often do you leave your workplace drained physically and emotionally, especially after a hard day or night of work? I have slept the past two days -- I thought I would never complete my 3 shifts last week. All 3 shifts were racked with people with GI bleeding, an intubated 95-year-old frail woman, entering the last stage of life (without family support), and other patients whose families wanted “everything done for them,“ despite end-stage diagnoses …Is this what nursing has become today ? Keeping the dead alive?

I realize that is a rather blunt statement. I find these patients to be the most taxing emotionally, their families often making the provision of care even more difficult during a 12-hour shift. I left all 3 shifts emotionally drained. I felt I had done what I could for these patients. Yet, their families wanted more. What is “more,“ when a patient is attached to every modern medical device available to maintain life?

Feelings of turmoil ran through me as I climbed aboard the bus each morning. Sheer exhaustion…

At home, I climbed into bed, after stopping for breakfast at the local diner. I was going to sleep things off. Renew myself by reading a newly written biography on Einstein - 452 pages left to read and then window-shop for the rest of the week.  Until my next 3 shifts…what would they encompass?

What are your thoughts on compassion fatigue? How do you cope?

An interesting Web site: Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project

November 12, 2008 in Beka | Permalink


Attachment refers to the critical bond that children develop to their parents or primary caregivers during the first years.

[url=http://www.researchproposalwriters.weebly.com]Research Proposal Writers[/url]

Posted by: Research Proposal Writer | Nov 15, 2011 12:48:43 AM

"Until my next 3 shifts…what would they encompass?"

Whew! That's depressing to imagine. Nurses, if not strong and healthy emotionally, mentally and socially will never cope up in the medical world, knowing that people are dying everyday. Hospital life may be different with our family life, yet there are times that we can't separate our personal life with our careers, eh.

Thanks for sharing,
Peny@Know More about the Prostate Cancer Test

Posted by: Penelope | Nov 10, 2011 3:22:43 AM

It is right that workplace drained physically and emotionally, especially after a hard day,so the things and the facts you share about the patients and the work is really right and also good,and great thing you told about the patients to be the most taxing emotionally.Good to allocate these useful and great points.

Posted by: Dissertation Writing | Mar 5, 2011 3:44:53 AM

I have a lot of friends who are nurses, new nurses at that. I ask them how they deal with the stress and emotions that come from being a nurse. I am especially curious as to how they deal with death of patients. My one friend pointed to her face and said "I break out all the time. That's how I deal!" But, if you're working in a field that you enjoy and are rewarded by the progress medicine is making in people's lives, then it's totally worth it.

Posted by: Gracie | Jan 25, 2011 2:22:37 PM

That is the tough part about becoming a nurse. It is exhausting! On so many levels, nursing is a wonderful field to work in because you get to help people everyday and it can be very rewarding. At the same time, it can be very draining and it takes a special kind of person to push through that and stick with the job.

Posted by: cna program | Jul 8, 2010 3:53:34 PM

Heeeelp i have my interview for the adult nursing course and some of the questions are centred around ..how would you cope emotionally and physically with the job....what should i say haaaa

Posted by: Michelle hubbard | Mar 13, 2010 4:45:45 PM

I am very glad to see these useful and very important.

Posted by: Fogia | Oct 26, 2009 6:10:26 AM

Nice Article.Continue this appreciating work.

Hazel Knight
Please mix the anchor text up and choose one below use a different anchor text every blog placement when you have used all 5 start again

nursing careers
nursing career
nursing job
nursing jobs
nursing employment
nursing careers
nursing careers

Posted by: nursing careers | Jul 3, 2009 1:12:25 AM

A nurse provides protection and optimization of health and abilities, prevent from illness and injury . Nursing skills include communication, physical examination, diagnosing problems, problem-solving with the patient, intervening with patient education and technical procedures, coordinate care across providers and sites, and advocate for the best care for the patient.

Hazel Knight

Posted by: nursing careers | Jun 15, 2009 6:16:11 AM

whewwwwwwww just wish some people who think they know it all and should be a nurse but dont have the skills or the schooling/education for it need to walk in our shoes for a change maybe then they will get off our backs and stay in their own departments i have department heads from dietary and marketing who think they know nursing and all that pertains to nursing they need to get a clue i am about ready to quit my job where i work as a charge nurse on 2-10 shift monday through friday because of them...the administrator is no better she had the gall to ask me to teach her how to write orders since shes also a pharmacy tech.....needless to say i didnt teach her thats for someone else to do....be my luck she would take the order and get it wrong and kill someone...didnt really care if shes a pharmacy tech or not...i loves my patients too much to subject them to her...they the only reason i am still there...been there almost 8 years now....sometimes i just regret not being there at home with my own kid and my neice....or even there when it came time to take care of my own father.....they dont know what it is like to have fifteen million people ( thats what it seems like anyway) constantly asking for this and for that or family members askin for them....i am so burned out but theres not any extra staffing in order for me to take my pto time.....i am so afraid i am goin to do something and its goin to hurt someone or worse kill someone......what to do what to do

Posted by: Sandra | Feb 10, 2009 1:23:01 AM

Wow! This is quite an eye-opener. I am currently a nursing student and I often read this blog for insight. I decided to go into nursing because I like helping people and I like challenging situations. It's good to read the "reality" side of the job, but it does sound a little scary. Although it's not the same thing, I do find myself stressed with juggling nursing school, a full-time job and a part-time CNA job. What I have been told is to perfect the art of time management and to compartmentalize the stress you are experiencing. My full-time job is at a health club and we deal with people with varying degrees of stress. The essence of it is that you need to release these feelings as soon as possible, duh. Holding in the stress is a toxic event in itself. With extreme stress, you need to take extreme measures and with milder stress you may just need to talk about it. Engage in activities, like high-level exercise, to totally disengage from the stressful issues. Get it out of your mind. Even a quick 10 minute walk can make a difference. It sounds like I'm going to need a lot of exercise!

Posted by: Jayleen | Feb 7, 2009 3:30:38 PM

I am a nursing student with only one more semester to complete before jumping into the stressful life of a nurse. I currently work as a student nurse aid - even as an aid I find myself stressed. Health care professionals in the United States have a difficult job. I think its important for nurses to remember that they are human beings and require the same basic things that all people require. Nurses need time to themselves, someone to listen to them, and someone to remind them that they are appreciated. If you can find this balance then you are well on your way to mastering stress management for nurses.

Posted by: Kerry | Dec 18, 2008 1:29:06 PM

Isn't it an oxymoron to recognize the increasing shortage of nurses, yet employers demand par-excellent performance, in an overload environment, with more legal interference to the ever increasing medical load of nurses routinely doing now, what once was an MD's job only, and all WITHOUT incurring overtime!

This insane parameter of "no overtime" will perhaps run more nurses out of nursing...one way or another.Bedside nurses today do more with less, and is there any wonder why the profession is increasingly short of competent numbers to handle the load of patients?

Patients are far less respectful of the efforts of nurse, behaving with disrespect, self centered ways, as if all medical facilities, especially hospitals and long term care centers, are varied species of the Hilton Hotel Chain.

There may be more boomers, but there are advanced medical techniques which prolong life and increase the patient population too. People in America are largely obese, a BIG tax on the endurance of nurses, especially when such as these, largely suffering from "hand to mouth disease" and laziness to exercise, admit to a hospital or long term care, then refuse to do anything for themselves, but complaining that nursing staff, don't jump fast enough or perfect enough.

I can see why a lesser paying job/profession becomes an entisement with time. So, one learns to do without some of the extras in life, it's worth it to not have to be subjected to folks whom instead of appreciating the care they do get from nurses, whine and incessantly threaten to get their jobs.

Let the administrators of such facilities nurse at the bedside. It's easy to be idealist from a cushioned chair with undeserved perks for number crunching. However, if left as is, someday soon, they'll be lucky if they can keep CNA's who do little that really requires any medical training, to staff their hospitals. Some nurses will endure, but live shorter, for if they continue to carry the overload as is expected now, their life span will shorten, the word will get out on what a great profession this is, and these money mongering administrators and patients whom no one can please, will be on their own, to heal or die as GOD wills....and perhaps this is just what this arrogant world needs....HUMILITY.

More funds are allocated for sporting events and mindless media, than for minds to be educated or lives kept well.....the day is already here, where largely only the wealthy can afford decent medical intervention.

DRG's were designed to insure PROFIT, for insurance companies....it certainly has not the welfare of the patient in mind, and it straps the decision making of a proactive, prudent MD because now insurance companys decide if one stays on in a hospital. This does dictate the life span and quality of life...or more accurately, lack of quality.

Address too, the bullying that routinely takes place in the medical profession, it happens in the educational arena too. The bully runs a fair share of excellent workers out of these two professions. All this has it's roots in America's adoption of "MEISM". People are so self centered and arrogantly individual minded, that though many demand compassion, few routinely extend the same to others.

The compassionate nurse, where there are still those whom embrace, "do no harm" and "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" ; the ART of Nursing are becoming a rare breed. They are the fabric from which Florence Nightengale came. She cared greatly about the wellness of others, first about the eternal destiny of their souls, secondly about their physiologic welfare. Doubt this? Research her life and historical writings, she believed God had called her to serve as a nurse, and ultimately for the welfare of souls eternal destiny. That she served God, she did many things very good, because she was led by the best....GOD!

Don't look for nursing to improve soon, not until this nation of ours, get's back to God, will hearts serve as God designed, putting the welfare of others first, before self, and appreciating all we have, instead of whining about what we have not.

I am a nurse, I love this profession the way God designed for care giving to be. The medical profession (for profit, including those whom pretend to be non-profit) is going to fail with time if they don't get back to what really matters; the sanctity of life.

There will always be a remnant of compassionate nurses around, though in ever decreasing numbers. Now, there is a large population of greed mongers entering the nursing ranks, whom care nothing really about rendering compassionate, self-sacrificing care to the needy. They do more harm than good and care largely only about titles, and money. They have the empathy of a pregnant alligator toward patient and colleague, and will do as little as possible, or lie about what they do, even to the point of perjury, just to keep a job, get a promotion, all for MORE MONEY and power. That is what is becoming the norm for many new nurses, so don't expect times to get better, before they get worse.

Posted by: Baxter | Dec 17, 2008 5:24:24 PM

After a crazy day I need to just go and workout. Sometimes this has to be done before I go home just to make sure I don't de-stress on my family.

Posted by: Heather | Dec 14, 2008 1:43:17 PM

How I cope with stressful work situations is by trying to place myself in the shoes of the person that's "causing" me stress. It becomes a lot easier to understand why patients and family members can be confused and upset because they are scared and in an unfamiliar place. I also make time to take care of my own needs and try not to, although hard, to leave work at work.

Posted by: Sean | Dec 10, 2008 5:25:21 PM

I am a newer nurse (licensed almost 2 years ago) and I actually switched jobs to get some balance. I was on a unit where we were perpetually shorthanded (even on day shift) and constantly pressured by doctors, patients, families and the review staff, who seemed to be looking for items to defend the hospital against. I rarely got my full lunch break (unless I was in a meeting--so I could eat) and I did a lot of OT to finish my work, chart and do the things the evening shift, with multiple admissions every night, could not get done. It stunk.

I love my specialty, so I went to the VA to practice it. Yes, it has its quirks which I don't like, but for the most part, I get my breaks, I have electronic charting, which means I don't have to wait for a doc, pharmacist or other "important" outsider to give me the paper one so I can finish my work, and I have a reasonable patient load.

Besides, I got more money because I have a BSN. I go in for eight hours and I'm done.

I've learned to decompress on my own and it's been wonderful. You must have an outlet, whether it's blogging, running, exercising or another hobby. It helps you let go of the craziness of your day in a constructive manner.

Posted by: RehabRN | Dec 8, 2008 1:37:09 PM

I am exhauseted even with balance in my life. I work part time, have a husband that does an equal share in the family, we workout, run, shop and have dates. But I have days where I just don't want to do anything. My spouse gives me a good ear and is very suportive. I love nursing, but dread going to work. You never know what it is going to entail. A good day is non stop and I am still lucky if I get out on time. I take my 30 minute break because it is mandatory. The 30 minute break is endorsed to a charge nurse, but I witness that pain management needs are the only ones tended to. I only work 8 hour shifts on a med/surg unit and I see that many post that they work 12hr shifts. I have an interest for 12hr shifts only to be at work even less days. Note that I only work part time. Adding to the exhaustion, managers expect overtime to be pre approved. We are called into a managers office and questioned about overtime that we don't anticipate in advance. Occasionally, I can't immediately recall a specific day without further research, but what I can say is that I am always ensuring my patient care is not comprimised and the standard of care is met. I agree with the post that these are living breathing people who are hurting and have needs that don't end at 330pm or because it is a change of shift. Don't forget documentation too. I have almost been nursing 5yrs and I AM burnt out! I am confident that I am a good nurse and it is recognized by my patients and families. So it is sad to say that I may be adding to the nursing shortage. This is a common underlying feeling of a majority of my coworkers. However, I am one taking action and exploring other career options away from the bedside or away from nursing altogether. I have already started an independent side business.

Posted by: kim | Dec 3, 2008 12:56:31 AM

Nursing in hospitals has exposed me to many emotionally charged situations. I've been a nurse for over 20 years and have worked mainly critical care, catheterization labs and in electrophysiology. I've known nurses first hand that got so distressed that they have committed suicide. I've also known families and patients that could not cope well with their illnesses. Nurses have to deal with their own stresses while taking on the stresses of others or they will be goners. They will develope a PTSD or other stress related illness. I try to help collegues going through tough times and empathize. There are many nurses that are single parents. Even if they aren't they may be the only bread winner of the family. The hours in nursing may be set at 3 or 5 days a week, but most work many more hours. It's important that nurse managers find ways to encourage their staffs to take time for themselves. Balancing patient and staff needs are toughest during shortages. Administrators need to maintain safe levels even if it means hiring contract personnel or additional salary or perks for retaining nurses. There are many things that can be done and building an awareness from the staff level to administration will help to find responsible resolution to this problem.

Posted by: Robin Morreale RN MSN RCIS | Nov 27, 2008 1:28:45 PM

I am an about-to-graduate-almost new nurse but am currently a counselor with hospice. By choice I have spent most of my clinicals in the ICU/CCU. I love the environment, love the clinical aspect, but it is so hard to see elderly people suffering through the end of their life when their family won't let them die with peace, comfort, and dignity. After obtaining the needed clinical experience, I hope to be a hospice nurse one day. Also, as a student, I just completed 3 12hr shifts, in a row, with only a 30 min break each day. This is no way to live. Granted, I also work a full time job but still...I love to be happy with my job and happy to go to work each day, and do not see that happening with a job like this. I do not need 2 extra free days off; to me, it doesn't make-up for it. I only wish the hospitals would focus on caring for their nurses and then they wouldn't have a shortage. I saw many staff, nurses and aids alike, grow tired and have decreased concentration, making mistakes, forgetting important aspects of care. This needs to change.

Posted by: BJ | Nov 25, 2008 7:50:54 PM

I have been a nurse for 5 years now, all in critical care. I know I haven't been around as long as some as you seasoned nurses who have been around for 20 and 30 years, but I love being a nurse. I do get frustrated when I get that patient I know is going to die on life support and the family just don't understand, but I am always up front with them. I think God gives each nurse different gifts. I don't know why but I was given the gift of being able to talk to families and patient about end of life and avoid life support, or avoid furthering treatment in some cases where it was going to be futile if they were already on a vent. My heart goes out to these families and it is very emotionally daunting and exhausting. Don't get me wrong, I love a good code too, when it's appropriate, but our patients are getting older, and more often than not it's not appropriate. I give a lot of hospice referrals. When I admit patients I start talking then about advanced directives and DNR's. I know that we feel we are doing PR with families most of the time, but remember our role, we are our patients advocate. I am planning on going back and getting my np, we have a palliative care program in our hospital, but I think every ICU needs it's own ICU and I would like to make that happen before I leave this hospital.

Posted by: Rebecca | Nov 24, 2008 10:43:21 PM

I have been a psychiatric nurse for 9 years (second career)and I have also experienced exhaustion, frustration and disillusionment. It seems that nursing care is at the mercey of higher management making decisions based on financial criteria, politics and clinical inexperience rather than on clinical needs of patients. It also seems that health professinals are viewed as a robotic commodity that can be used and abused as employers see fit rather than the valuable assest we are. I've had to become very diciplined at keeping the work/life balance so that I can continue to help my patients in spite of sabotage from those who should know better. The previous comment about nurses supporting each other is definitly true. It does work and allows us all to feel valued.

Posted by: Ruth | Nov 22, 2008 10:26:08 AM

I too have poured myself into bed after long shifts in SICU. This is a very important topic to discuss but it seems as though there are few solutions available to us. Lack of budget resources, understaffed scenarios, and higher patient acutity spell disenchantment within our profession. In our unit, I really try to help others when I can, encourage positive energy and teamwork, and take each day separately. But, some days it just seems an impossible task.
My husband wishes he could work 3 12's a week (he thinks this would be easy) but he does not understand how mentally, physically, and emotionally draining these shifts can be.
Recently, I had a brain injury patient state I must be his "waitress" during questioning for q 1 hour neuro checks. With his diminished cognitive ability, he was probably closer to reality than even I realized.
In the past nurses received more respect from patients and families, but now it seems as though disrespectful treatment from families and sometimes physicians has become the normal climate within which we work.
In the past 30 years, I have found that changing departments about every 2 - 5 years has kept me from becoming bitter about nursing as a profession. The constant challenge of learning has encouraged me to continue my education. In two years I hope to complete a Nurse Practitioner program and explore yet another area of nursing practice. At least as nursing professionals we do have an opportunity to change areas and directions without leaving nursing altogether. There are so many choices in this profession your bound to find one that fits you perfectly.

Posted by: Paula | Nov 22, 2008 1:40:58 AM

I've been a nurse for 20+ years.A solution to burnout which has worked for me, is to diversify my area of specialty... changing my "safe" environment of knowledge has sometimes been scary.
Freeing my mind to endless possibilties has been very rewarding..go from med/surg to home health..long term care field has great management opportunities- even for those with associate degrees..
Eventually I landed in legal nurse consulting and am currently performing medical record reviews for insurance companies.. That valuable bedside nursing can be an asset for your future.. Thankfully,the arena of nursing is far-reaching in the 21st century!!

Posted by: sally | Nov 21, 2008 3:46:24 PM

I always take my lunch and other breaks, and also go to the washroom when I need to, it's the only way to stay sane and survive in my hectic nursing environment. It does not help my patients when I am too tired, hungry and dehydrated to function.It is my patients' health that is at stake. I find yoga to be very restorative after a set. My husband also does not want to hear about my work, "too depressing" according to him! I debrief when I need to with a friend who is a nurse. I am the breadwinner at home and cannot afford to burn out!

Posted by: Kat | Nov 21, 2008 2:31:12 AM

I have working in nursing for over 30 yrs. Yes, the work is demanding and sometimes you don't even realize that your shift is almost over because if feels like you haven't even gotten thru the list of orders that the previous shift didn't get thru on their time. But nurses, what do you do for each other? Do you support each other so everyone gets a break and lunch ( not just the smokers) or do you resent your fellow nurse for taking a few minutes to regroup and refresh? I worked in cardiac care from CCU, CSU, telemetry and cath lab and finally switched to radiology outpatient (where I am the only nurse) because I felt the loss of caring between nurses. No one hurts nursing more that nurses. Stop complaining and get yourselves together to figure ways to help each other out. 30 minutes away from your unit will truly help your mind, body and soul. It seems trivial but it works. Some of the nurses I have worked with became instant b....es at 2pm and it carried over until shift end because they did not care enough to care for themselves, they would not leave the unit to eat or walk or anything, but they sure as hell resented anyone else for doing it. Believe it or not,your work will still be there after lunch and you can learn to make a priority list which will help set up your break away.
Love yourselves ladies ( gentlemen), laugh with your coworkers and patients for a bright moment amongst all the agony and pain... it will help get you thru your shift.

Posted by: mary | Nov 20, 2008 10:51:37 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.