5 Ways Real Nurses Deal with Emotional Trauma at Work (+VIDEO)

We all know that the nursing profession is not an easy one, and by no means a stress-free one. So what do nurses do to handle the stress and emotional trauma after a tough day at work?

We often forget that nurses are people too! They have feelings and sometimes they need a good cry just like everyone else. When their patients are extremely ill or even pass away, the nurse is often left feeling the pain long afterwards. Mikhail Shneyder, our CEO, was once a nurse himself. He said the profession is built on “unwavering dedication, personal sacrifice, and all-encompassing empathy.” Sometimes that empathy may get to be too much for nurses.

How do they move on? How do they handle it? We asked some of our nurse faculty and administration how they unwind emotionally after a traumatic incident. They offered up some advice to help you take some of that weight of your shoulders. Here are a few of their tips:

Remember why you became a nurse

Tayler Allen, an RN who teaches for our ADN program, said that she reflects on why she became a nurse, and that gives her more purpose to continue through the rest of the hectic workday. “The number one thing that I always do is just reflect back on why I even went into nursing, and that was because I truly enjoy helping people,” she said. “I want them to heal, I want them to know that I’m compassionate towards them and that I really care about their total outcome as a human being, not just as a patient.”

Talking it out

While it may seem obvious, another thing that can be helpful is talking it out with coworkers or family. Assistant Professor Amanda Nussbaum, who also works in an intensive care unit, said that after an unexpected death, she vents to the other health workers. “Dealing with mourning family members, and kind of that frustration with whether or not you could have foreseen what was going to happen, whether or not you could have done things to prevent the death…In dealing with that stress, I find that I reach out to coworkers, and we talk about our stories and our experiences and share that grief.”

You might have noticed a huddled group of nurses in the hall when you’ve been to the hospital. You may think it’s a bunch of nurses slacking off and shooting the breeze, but really, there’s more to the story. Chyleen Tucker, a nurse and Nightingale Area Regional Manager in Idaho, said, “They’re not really chatting, they’re processing. They’re processing that traumatic event by talking it over amongst themselves. ”

Personal time

As expected, nurses sometimes need some personal time to cry it out and just to embrace being really miserable for a little bit. They need time to internally process what happened, and this looks different for everyone. Karen Sincerbeaux, an instructor for our ADN program, said she takes quiet time to cry, pray, to “absorb” what happened. She said she likes to take that evening to watch the sunset or maybe study the bible, “Taking time to process and surrender those feelings, and then it allows me to let go and move on to the next day.”

While many may not be up for an evening outside, there are other ways to snag some personal time. Chyleen said she enjoys reading. A nice fluffy book to take your mind off the pain. “A fiction,” said Chyleen. “Something that will get me kind of out of the way, make my mind think and get me out of that world.”

Exercise

Don’t you hate it when the answer is exercise? But it’s true. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.” All four of the nurses we interviewed mentioned some kind of exercise as a way to lighten up. Long walks, especially in nature, are definitely favorites, because it allows them time to ponder and come to terms with the events of the day. They also mentioned running and yoga.

Moving on

Somehow, nurses always manage to move on. Aren’t they incredible? They still come to work the next day, ready to help the next ailing soul, even though they know that disaster could happen at any moment. That’s why nurses are so special. They witness so much pain, yet are always willing to lend a hand again and again. They know the value of health and life, and they don’t take it for granted. Amanda said that after a traumatic event or a death, she goes home and remembers to hug her loved ones a little tighter that day.

What are some ways you cope in stressful, even traumatic, situations?

 

A Crumpled Mess: Why Clean Scrubs Matter

scrubsScrubs are the vital uniform for nurses, but no matter how important, scrubs are often overlooked when it comes to being presentable. After a long shift, your scrubs will be in worse shape and will need a definite deep wash to remove germs from the fabric, which is why nurses are asked to keep their scrubs clean—for the safety of patients, visitors, and fellow healthcare employees.

It may be strange to consider that the appearance of scrubs can have such a big impact when interacting with other nurses, doctors, and patients. But nurses need to pay close attention to the impression they make when they are sporting wrinkly, stained, dirty scrubs.

Taking care of your appearance while in nursing school should be a main objective. During labs, learners are instructed to dress in the professional nursing attire for a reason. Scrubs are often the item that is considered last. Clinicals are an important time for learners to practice networking with potential employers and fellow nurses who can be a great resource when scouting for references to accompany a job application. And the way you keep your scrubs says quite a bit about you, your hygiene, and your character.

Insider Tip: When making a first impression, a person has less than seven seconds to impress another individual. Many first impressions are made based off of a person’s appearance. Even before the conversation or interview begins, the first impression has been made. Nursing learners have a great opportunity to network in a variety of healthcare settings during clinicals. It is a prime location and time to get a foot in the door if it is an organization that is desirable. Upon graduation and passing the NCLEX-RN, graduates can reconnect with influential people employed at the desired locations and investigate the facility’s hiring needs from an inside source. Make it your goal to leave the best impression you can by not only showcasing your competences but by showing you value your appearance and are interested in representing the employer well. Sneaky? Not really, just smart.

So why do clean scrubs matter?

Reason #1: It speaks to your work ethic.

Part of being a nurse is having comfortable clothes that can withstand long hours of wear and tear. It is understandable that nurses do not always have the time to get ready nor have the time during a shift to tidy up. However, the way you take care of yourself illustrates your work ethic. If you have the patience and make the time to care for yourself and your scrubs, it shows that you pay attention to the little things, which will spill over into your work environment. Having the right work attire also influences the response you will receive from others. Nurses with tidy, clean scrubs elicit a more positive and engaging response from those around them than nurses wearing scrubs that were not taken care of.

Reason #2: It makes a good impression.

Continuing on from Reason #1, clean scrubs make a good impression on fellow colleagues, administration, and patients and visitors. A nurse donning clean scrubs eludes to confidence and value in the job. Imagine a nurse coming in for a shift with dirty, wrinkly scrubs, then a fellow nurse coming in for the same shift with clean scrubs. As a patient, which nurse do you hope to take care of you? Unfortunately, appearance does make a big impression, especially in the healthcare field. People associate dirty and untidy with disease ridden.

Think of clean scrubs on the same level as washing your hands and wearing gloves. The scrub material catches germs and whatever else ends up on the material just as your hands can be exposed to the same elements (which is why healthcare professionals are required to wear gloves). Nurses do not reuse gloves. Think of your scrubs in the same sense and remember to care for them and wash them after every shift.

Reason #3: You will feel professional. It’s about dressing for the job you want.

When you take the time to get ready for work each day, what you wear can influence your outlook. Putting on clean scrubs right before a clinical or a shift helps you feel prepared for your day instead of looking in the mirror wishing you could iron out the wrinkles on the left side of your scrub top. Have pride in yourself and your job, and show that you do care. It is your professional appearance and your brand that you are endorsing so do it well. A famous saying is dress for the job you want. Surprisingly, this statement is very much true.

Reason #4: Scrubs are expensive, so give your scrubs the best treatment.

Nice scrubs can be expensive to purchase, especially the brands that provide extra comfort and allow you to easily move without rubbing against brittle fabric or the fabric that fits terribly. Just as it is advisable to get yourself a good pair of shoes that provides exceptional support, invest in a few good pairs of scrubs. Once purchased, take the utmost care in washing your scrubs twice to remove all germs and right out of the dryer, take a few minutes to fold them to reduce wrinkly lines so you don’t resemble a crumpled mess.

Keeping scrubs clean is not always at the top of the list while in nursing school. While you are being stretched so thin balancing work, school, and sometimes a family, it is hard to remember to throw the scrubs you used earlier today in the wash and iron out the wrinkles. But it will make a big difference in your future career as a nurse.

So why do clean scrubs matter? Once employed, you become a reflection of your employer and employers want their nurses to represent their organization well. You, as a nurse, should take pride and value in yourself and the nursing profession. Professional appearance matters a lot.

What does this mean for those still in nursing school?

Pay special attention to who you interact with while at your next clinical. Even though you may not interact directly with the DON or the recruiting manager, people will come to know you and they will be able to speak to your appearance. Take the time to care for the scrubs you wear and make sure your appearance is a positive reflection of you as a great nurse. While attending a lab or clinical, make sure that you adhere to the policies about your professional appearance and never, ever underestimate the state of your scrubs. It’s the impression you make about you, your work ethic, and your character.

Read 4 Scrubbing Essentials for Safe and Tidy Scrubs to learn how to properly clean scrubs by clicking here.

Check out Your Professional Presence: Advice on Dress and Appearance to review helpful tips and review the basics of professional appearance by clicking here.