Nurses are some of the most selfless, strong, and compassionate people in the world. They are responsible for a variety of tasks, including coordinating and providing care for patients, providing advice and support to patients and their families, and communicating with coworkers to ensure proper care.
"[Nurses] are physically and emotionally taking care of their patients, they are the go-to's for the patient's family members, and they have to coordinate with the doctors, social workers, administrators, and so many others to ensure the patient is being properly cared for,” said Joe, one of the amazing licensed social workers and therapists here at the Nourished Nest.
Rewarding and Exhausting Work
While the work is often rewarding, it’s also exhausting— mentally and physically. In fact, a survey from July 2021 found that 95% of nurses felt burned out at the time of the survey or during the previous 3 years.
It’s not all birds and butterflies. Joe says that many nurses deal with unsafe staffing ratios, long hours, little breaks during working hours, and often physical and verbal abuse from patients.
But it’s not only that. The job is emotionally taxing, and many of us have seen glimpses of it on shows like Grey’s Anatomy. When Joe was a social worker in the hospital setting, he saw the intense emotional toll the job took on nurses.
“They are exposed to intense trauma daily and are not always provided a space to decompress and process the feelings that come from trauma.”
COVID-19 is an example of this. Joe has heard stories of how entire floors became ‘COVID floors’ with people “passing away left and right.”
“At times there are nurses who would be holding up IPads for patients so they could speak to their family members before they die. On top of the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and exposure to immense trauma, nurses in some areas are managing with unsafe staffing ratios.”
Nurses' mental health conditions are at a high
It’s all these circumstances that cause nurses to strike. Just at the beginning of this year, nurses in New York City were on strike to speak out against the nationwide problem with staffing. Since nurses don’t even have the ability to care for their patients efficiently and are hanging on by a thread, grasping each minute without a second to waste, it’s not surprising that nurses don’t care for themselves.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, stated that:
“93% of health workers reported being stressed out and stretched too thin;
82% are emotionally and physically exhausted; and
45% of nurses are not getting enough emotional support.”
The rates of mental health conditions like depression, PTSD, and anxiety are at a high. Nurses also often experience suicidal ideations or tendencies.
And what’s even worse: only 10% of nurses said they take advantage of mental health services from their employers, even though 72% said their workplaces offer those services.
“I think so many factors can contribute to nurses not getting mental health care,” said Joe. “Long hours, picking up extra shifts to help with short staffing, and lack of affordable mental health care are just a few reasons I'd imagine are what makes it harder for nurses to reach out.”
Nurses deserve to care for themselves— we all do. Taking care of others can become so exhausting and mentally draining, especially when there isn’t enough of you to go around. We are so appreciative of what nurses do, and we want to ensure that nurses can get quality care too.
Here are some small things nurses can do to take care of themselves:
Ensure you are eating throughout the day. Bring a healthy snack and/or lunch for a break during shifts.
Talk to a close friend or loved one.
Journal or meditate once a day.
Keep a water bottle with you at all times.
Take a walk outside or attend a yoga class at least once a week.
The Nourished Nest is starting a Nurses Support Group in the upcoming weeks.
As Joe says, “it's important for people in the helping profession to set good boundaries with work to give space to decompress and relax.”
In the support group, Joe will be collaborating to discuss mindfulness techniques and how to practically use them in our day-to-day, trauma and how it affects us, grief, and ways to set boundaries with our work and ourselves.
The Nourished Nest provides a variety of mental health services, and this is just one of them. You are not alone.