How to cope with challenges in nursing

nurse measuring the blood pressure of a patient
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Nurses are a resilient, proactive group, and dealing with and overcoming the challenges of nursing is part of what makes them so amazing at their jobs and how they care for their patients.

The following tips can help nurses function optimally.

1. Practice Regular Self-Care

Providing high-quality care requires you to be healthy and feeling at your best. When you’re at work, take regular breaks, don’t skip meals and pace yourself.

When you leave work, leave work issues behind. Eat nutritiously, get adequate rest and take well-earned time for yourself.

Even a short walk can refresh your perspective. Don’t shortchange your own health and well-being — you and your patients will thank you.

2. Put Safety First

As a nurse, you are used to putting the safety of your patients first — but don’t do this if it puts yourself at risk.

Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance with moving or lifting a patient who might be too heavy for you. 

Form positive relationships with those you work with and be collaborative. Be proactive and make your voice heard if you see or experience something that poses a safety risk — either to a patient or to the medical staff.

Finally, if you do experience an injury on the job, take the time you need for healing; don’t continue to push yourself when you’re in pain.

3. Practice Good Hygiene

Practicing good hygiene, such as washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and avoiding touching your face are all simple but surprisingly effective ways you can protect yourself from disease.

In the hospital setting, nurses can make sure they wear personal protective equipment, commonly known as PPE. This includes wearing gloves to protect their hands, masks to protect their mouths and noses, goggles to protect their eyes and gowns to protect their skin and other clothing.

4. Prioritize Workplace Wellness

If you’re a nurse leader, you can develop an organizational culture that emphasizes workplace wellness. 

There are several tactics that can be used to bring this wellness mindset to fruition, and they can also help encourage nurse self-care. Designating a free room or rooms as quiet zones where nurses can go for a few minutes can allow them to alleviate stress and recharge their batteries. Having healthy snacks readily available can also help nurses maintain energy and keep them nourished, which could also help keep negative feelings at bay. 

Engaging with nurses and seeking insight into the state of the current work environment can help nurses feel more included in the flow of the work environment, which could reduce frustrations that lead to nurse burnout or, in some cases, bullying or violent behaviors.

5. Be Mindful of Staff Shortages

If you find yourself working in a place that is short-staffed, you can attempt to negotiate with your supervisors to make sure your schedule is not negatively affecting your ability to function productively.

If there seems to be no way around an overly taxing schedule, be proactive and explore other nursing options. Remember, putting yourself at risk is counterproductive, both to your own health and that of your patients.

6. Build Technology Skills

Your main concern is caring for your patients, but the reality is that technology can help you do your job more efficiently. So it’s important to stay up to speed on nursing technology. Keep in mind that technology is meant to make your life easier, and because of this, the learning curve is more than worth it.

If you want to stay ahead of technology’s ever-evolving curve, consider proactively learning new tech skills. If you have long-term career ambitions in the nursing field, upskilling may also improve your chances for advancement, as you may have more tools to offer than the competition.

Build a Supportive Environment

Compassion fatigue is a big challenge in nursing and can lead nurses to withdraw from social interactions or isolate themselves from healthy relationships. These behaviors can make a nurse feel like they’re alone. If you’re a nurse leader, it’s important to minimize these behaviors by building a supportive environment. 

Reassure your staff that they aren’t alone if they feel emotional after interacting with dying patients. Make them feel like they can share these emotions in a safe, inclusive environment.

There may be times when your staff needs additional support. In these instances, it’s important to encourage the use of a facility’s external support system, such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). These programs allow nurses to gain professional help and care regarding not only the driving factors behind compassion fatigue but other issues that may contribute to concerns such as nurse burnout.