How Can Nurses Reduce Work-Related Stress?

This is a guest article by Lucy Wyndham

Nursing and other healthcare professions are considered high-stress occupations and a study published in the journal Curationis has found that there are five stress factors that override the rest. These include patient care, job demands, lack of support, staff problems, and having to work overtime. Nursing is inherently stressful because of the emergency nature of many cases attended to, the frequent need for overtime and night shift work, and (in some cases) less than ideal salaries. If you are a nurse facing stress, you may not be able to change the nature of your work, but studies show that there are many ways you can keep your ‘fight or flight response’ in check. One of these is cognitive behavioral therapy.

Why Should Stress be Taken Seriously in the Nursing Profession?

Patients depend on doctors and nurses to sustain their lives, so ensuring optimal health among healthcare professions is key. Professionals who are in a state of high stress or who have their ‘right or flight’ responses invoked can be more likely to commit errors or lose focus. Stress can lead to poor quality sleep, which in itself can hamper job performance. One 2019 Michigan State University study showed that issues such as a lack of support among nurses at work can lead to stress and loss of tempers, resulting in an increased risk of work injuries. Researchers recommend that hospitals implement strategies designed to improve the social environment for healthcare workers.

Psychological Therapy Reduces Stress in Nurses

A study on 40 nurses found that nurses who underwent two hours of cognitive-behavioral stress management sessions per week, had a significant decrease in their stress loads. Researchers believe that CBT can play an important role in increasing nurse efficiency as well. They note that around 7.4% of nurses are absent from their workplace because of burnout or stress-related disability. They are 80% more likely to face burnout than workers in other professions. The aim of CBT is to show patients the extent to which the way they think, feel, and behave in particular situations are interrelated. For instance, feeling stressed about work can then affect they way they interact with other nurses or their patients. When receiving CBT, nurses may be asked by their psychologist to keep a journal listing down their reactions to different situations. They might then be asked to make a small behavioral change and to observe how this affects the way they feel about or perceive a situation.

What Should Relaxation Programs for Nurses Involve?

In times of stress, therapists may also recommend some type of relaxation program. A study undertaken at Ohio State University showed that nurses reduced stress levels by 40% by following a relaxation program at work. The program involved an eight-week mindfulness-based intervention that included mindfulness, gentle stretching, meditation, and music - all conducted at work. Researchers recommended that this holistic approach be employed in hospitals and clinics to reduce nurse burnout.

Time Management and Routines are Key

Using time to full avail is vital for nurses. The first step towards good time management is finding ways in which time may be wasted on a day to day basis. Just a few issues causing stress may be failing to follow a strict sleeping routine, sleep late and rushing to work the next day, and spending all one’s free time in a sedentary fashion. By establishing a routine, key activities such as exercise, sleep, and getting to work on time and in a relaxed state, can be achieved. Nurses can reduce travel stress, for instance, by leaving a little earlier from home everyday, enjoying an energizing daily walk before starting work. Sleep is especially important for nurses because when sleep quality is poor, it can result in impaired cognitive performance, a greater rate of errors, and a depressed/anxious/irritable mood.

Aromatherapy Massage for Nurses can Help

In addition to embracing holistic practises, nurses should also consider so-called ‘alternative therapies’ that have been proven to bust stress. One of these is aromatherapy massage with music. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing found that this therapy was able to dramatically decrease stress in nurses working in an accident and emergency department.

Nurses and doctors have a high level of stress owing to various factors - including the life-or-death nature of their work. Hospitals should make nurses’ health a priority by offering relaxation programs and by working to improve the social environment. Finally, nurses can take part in anti-stress activities such as meditation, and establish a strict routine that enables them to make the most of their free time for exercise, rest, and social enjoyment.

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