How to Cope with Stress on the Job

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By ANA Career Center Staff – June 2014

Nurses know stress. Emotionally draining work, long hours and staffing challenges can stress any nurse out over time, leading to job dissatisfaction and possible burnout. A recent review of several research studies found workplace conflicts, difficulties handling varying management styles, heavy workloads and the emotional toll of nursing work itself are the main sources of nurses’ stress, and have been over the course of many years.

Job stress can be most difficult when it’s happening in real time during working hours — when forces combine in the moment to create an almost overwhelming situation. That’s when nurses need their stress-management tools the most.

Here are some smart ways busy nurses can cope with stress on the job.

Create a Culture of Purposeful Communication

Communication is one of the best ways nurses can decrease the stress in their day, says Kiki Orski, founder and chief nursing officer of Peak Performance Consulting. “Stress in hospitals in hospitals is unavoidable. However, it can be managed.”

Orski explains that everyone in a health care situation is dealing with stress, and poor or inconsistent communication only heightens it. “Patients worry more and subsequently call their nurses more, which wouldn't be bad if the nurses were always fully informed, and this creates a vicious cycle.”

When you foster a culture of purposeful communication, in which people share information fully and openly, stress levels can decrease, Orski says. “This is especially important for patients — their trust levels rise because they feel fully informed, they become more compliant with their care and therefore can experience better outcomes.”

In addition, nurses are able to do their jobs more confidently because the plan of care is clearer, she explains. “Purposeful communication is one of the most important steps to decrease nurses' stress.”

Get Organized

Staying on top of your game and keeping yourself and your workplace organized can help decrease stress, says Wumi Osunsanya, a recruiting manager who works with health care candidates at The Job Spotter. Nurses in particular may get into a mindset where they feel like they have to be superheroes, but they can’t do everything, Osunsanya says.

Taking the time to set priorities in your day can help you better formulate plans for how to complete everything, Osunsanya says. “By being organized, you’ll establish what you need to do,” and while you can’t do everything, you’ll be able to prioritize what you must accomplish.

Enlist the Help of a Mentor

Finding a mentor can help your own development and career path, but in times of stress, it can also help you cool down, says Osunsanya. “By having a mentor, you may be able to express or vent your concerns, which nurses often bottle up.”

When you have a mentor, you have a built-in go-to person who can help with you with immediate issues and coach you on ways to do things better next time. Mentors not only help your career and outlook, but a 2010 report found mentoring can help improve patient outcomes as well.

Managing stress on the job is a key way to help prevent burnout. Keep job satisfaction high by looking for ways to cope with the everyday job stresses you face.

ANA’s recent publication, Self-Care and YOU, provides an integrated approach to the practice of self-care.  It has examples, guidelines, tips, techniques, and insights about pathways to help you assess and guide your life long journey to self-care.

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