Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ultimately, Fighting Stress Is Up To Us!

Have you ever questioned whether or not your employer really cares?

Recently, on my floor we learned of heartbreaking news. They announced that an RN had died. The circumstances surrounding her passing remain a mystery.

Beepers and Cell Phones at a Memorial?

Although the Department Director provided a "Tea Time for the Soul" ceremony for the day shift staff, it was scheduled during our working hours. On my med/surg floor, we carry cell phones and pagers so we can be located at all times due to the large size of our floor (three nurses stations, hundreds of feet apart). In other words, because the ceremony was taking place during our shift, we all had our beepers and cell phones on.

Many of us begrudgingly carved out some time to attend the ceremony. Once there, we noted there was calming music playing. Refreshments had been provided. There were two chaplains in attendance. The chaplains were initiating a discussion with the staff. The stage was set for a potentially very healing atmosphere.

I have to admit that for a brief moment, I got lulled into a sense of serenity. However, approximately three minutes into it, I got beeped and had to leave to go urgently medicate someone. I never did make it back due to other pages and phone calls and urgent issues.

Have you ever felt foolish for trusting that management really cared about you? I remember thinking, "This isn't right. I just sat down."

Nursing Stress: "The Elephant in the Living Room"

Thoughtfully, the chaplains had provided some brochures. One brochure was entitled "Compassion Fatigue" and the other was called "What Grieving Does to the Body." There was also a "Mood Card" which allowed the attendees to check their stress level. According to the card, the colder the hand, the more tense and stressful the person was.

These handouts were much appreciated. However, the topics they addressed, although fantastically appropriate for the nursing staff, seemed to represent "The elephant in the living room." There it was in black and white. The brochures were talking about nursing stress. But no one said a word. We all sat silent as our pagers and phones went off one by one.

All A Big Tease

Have you ever caught yourself wondering if the management at your facility does things just for show? Because none of us got to really take any of it in, it was as if the chaplain, the kind words, the pertinent brochures and the refreshments were all a BIG TEASE. After all, the ceremony was taking place during our very busy work day! How could we really acknowledge the loss of our co-worker, when taking the time to attend her memorial was seen as a burden that was pulling us off schedule?

My co-worker said something very profound. She said, "It would have been nice if we actually got a chance to participate in the memorial ceremony. It would have been better if they would have scheduled it after our shift was over. I know many of us would have gladly stayed after we were "clocked out" just to pay our respects and de-stress together. What a shame, all that effort for nothing."

Arm Yourself Against Stress

Today, Nurses work under extremely stressful conditions. It would be wise to come to the conclusion that it is up to YOU to take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and nutritionally. It is my passion to encourage nurses to take care of themselves and fight back against their daily work stress.

As nurses, we must not assume that management has our best interests at heart all the time. We must make choices that are going to benefit us. We must be ever vigilant against stress, compassion fatigue, burnout and grief. Ultimately, our well being is our responsibility!

Question: Why do you think nurses "burn out"? Post your answer as a "Comment" at the bottom of this post!

Take care of yourselves Nurses!
Theresa Waller, RN
714 293 5398 Call anytime

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