It’s safe to say that nurses are the healthcare heroes who hold the threads that weave together the resilient tapestry of patient care. Translation – nurses are the first line of defense for people facing injuries or a myriad of health issues. It’s for that very reason it is so critical to prioritize the physical and mental well-being of nurses. However, in an over-burdened healthcare system that has been weakened by a variety of challenges, nurses are often overlooked and don’t get the credit they deserve. And that – is just plain wrong.
But the reality is that because nurses are on a mission to help others become the best physical version of themselves, their own mental health is often sidelined. The immense amount of work nurses are required to do, combined with long shifts at all times of the night and day, can often be a recipe for exhaustion and burnout. In fact, according to research, many nurses suffer from a variety of mental health issues including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and emotional exhaustion.
Fortunately, the stigma surrounding mental illness is decreasing around the world, but there is still a ways to go. Fostering an open dialogue where people feel encouraged to talk about their feelings and issues is essential to eliminating the stigma associated with mental health. Healthcare organizations who provide, counseling, stress management, and other mental health support services can make a major impact on the mental health of the nurses they employ. It’s also important for employers to normalize and promote acceptance of individuals seeking help with mental health.
With constant exposure to high-pressure situations and emotional connections with patients, stress is an understandable by-product of working in the nursing profession. The massive shortage in the nursing workforce is also creating additional stress on nurses, who are working longer hours than ever to make up for the shortfall in staffing. And let’s face it, a stressed-out nurse can impact patient care in a big way. But there are some techniques for keeping stress levels at bay:
- Rest your body and your mind: Getting enough sleep is absolutely imperative for your physical and mental health. Shoot for at least 8 hours every night to minimize issues resulting from sleep deprivation.
- Put the right things in your body: And your body will perform better. Try to eat a healthy diet, avoid too much caffeine and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
- Keep things moving: By getting regular exercise. Studies have shown exercise to be a major stress reducer that can also improve sleep.
- Strike a balance: It’s always important to achieve the right work-life balance. Everyone needs to reboot and decompress from work. So, be sure to make time to enjoy the things you love doing and don’t neglect you ‘me-time’ Spending time with loved ones is a wonderful way for nurses to decompress and recharge.
- Get in touch with your inner self: By trying out meditation. Giving yourself some time to simply breathe in and breathe out and center yourself – can be a powerful antidote to stress and anxiety.
How can a healthcare organization help?
Providing adequate support to nurses is crucial to enhancing their mental health. By taking a firm stand towards reconstructing their policies, companies can provide a safer environment for their employees — free from stress, exhaustion, and burnout. It’s of utmost importance to consider the needs of nursing professionals to maintain the mental health of the workforce. The following strategies are a great place to start:
- Say no to staffing issues: It’s quite common for healthcare organizations to have a shortage of staff. While this might be the case, it should definitely not be normalized. Focus on matching the right nurses to the right roles to minimize turnover and keep your workforce fully staffed. This can allow for shorter shifts and much-needed breaks for the nurses on your team.
- Open opportunities to talk: Building up stress without a shoulder to rely on is a huge no-no. Encourage the nurses on your team to talk about their issues in a non-judgmental manner. But always make sure this interaction remains confidential!
- Consider their concerns: If you’re unsure of how you can support your nurses, there’s a very easy solution. Simply ask them. Listening to their concerns regarding the work environment can allow you to gain key insights into what changes you need to make in your organization.
- Hooray to technology: When in doubt, rely on technology. Leveraging the right technology can turn your vision into an achievable goal. Just be sure to provide effective training, continuous guidance, and support when it’s needed.
Resilience and its importance in mental health
Nurses simultaneously take care of patients, while also dealing with long work hours and stressful situations. These factors can mentally drain the most resilient among us. But that’s why having a resilient mindset is so important when you’re a professional nurse. Resilience is the unwavering strength that acts as a shield against all forms of adversity. It’s a power built by inner strength along with support from others.
A strong, mentally health community of nurses providing unwavering support and compassionate patient care is the foundation of a robust healthcare system. The key to ensuring that unwavering support remains unwavering, is to prioritize and promote the positive mental health of these healthcare heroes who make a difference in peoples’ lives each and every day.