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How Stressful is Being A Nurse?

Being a nurse is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding professions, but it also comes with its fair share of stressors. Nurses often find themselves navigating high-pressure environments characterized by long shifts, heavy workloads, and constant exposure to human suffering and emotional distress. The nature of nursing requires rapid decision-making, multitasking, and the ability to prioritize patient care amidst competing demands.

Moreover, nurses frequently encounter challenging situations such as medical emergencies, patient crises, and end-of-life care, which can take a toll on their emotional well-being and resilience. Additionally, factors like staffing shortages, administrative burdens, and workplace conflicts further contribute to the stress experienced by nurses, potentially leading to burnout, compassion fatigue, and mental health issues if not properly addressed and supported. Despite these challenges, there are still ways to manage your stress levels as a nurse.

There are two main paths to help prevent burnout that a nurse can explore:

Minimize the Stressors

  • Pay attention to where/when/why you are feeling most stressed. Perhaps it is at work or in your personal life. Notice where your stressors come from and then make a plan to decrease them.
  • Set healthy boundaries. Know that it is okay to say no, especially if you are picking up extra hours regularly or taking on too many tasks outside of work.
  • Work with your Nurse Manager or supervisors to adjust your schedule or hours if needed.
  • Evaluate your goals and priorities for your career.
  • Practice effective communication amongst your coworkers and lead by example. Extra work can occur if the information is not properly communicated.

Knowing there are many circumstances and situations that are out of your control and working towards accepting and managing the stress can be helpful.

Manage the Stress Effectively

  • Take care of yourself. Take the time to eat healthy, get enough sleep, and exercise. Set small goals for yourself that are realistic and do not shame yourself if you don't always hit every mark.
  • Take time off. Take a vacation or utilize your days off to change the scenery, even if it is just for a weekend.
  • Spend time with friends or family. Connecting with others helps relieve stress.
  • Spend quality time by yourself. Having quiet time can work wonders for nurses who work in bustling environments.
  • Talk to someone about stress. A professional therapist, friend, or partner can be a great resource.
  • Find an activity that speaks to you to help you be present in the moment, for example: do yoga, meditate, journal, create art or music. Bringing mindfulness to the present moment helps quiet stress and relieve anxiety.
  • Remind yourself of why you became a nurse, or why you choose to be a nurse. Caregiving for others is a rewarding endeavor. When burn-out occurs, it's helpful to remind yourself of all the good you are contributing to the world.

Read more in our NCLEX-RN guide to stress management.

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