Impact Lives

Caring for the Caregiver: Creating a Healthy Work Life for Nurses

Nurses tackle many obstacles in their work, each and every day. The stress of a nurse’s job can begin to take its toll on their health, both mentally and physically, if proper care is not practiced. Taking time to care for self is crucial.

A Healthy Work Life Causes for Stress in a Nurse's Life

Matters of life and death are everyday occurrences for those in the medical field and the intensity and care for others often can build up stress for health care professionals. Studies have identified three main causes of stress in a hospital nursing staff:

  • Workload – Long hours, heavy amounts of paperwork, consistent stream of patients and a significant amount of time spent on their feet lead to substantial work stresses for nurses.
  • Dealing with the emotional needs of both patients and families – Nurses give selflessly to each patient. Care is not solely relegated to the patient; the family of the patient expects a great deal from health care providers as well. With these demands, nurses often find it difficult to treat each patient equitably while balancing the emotional needs of those close to the patient.
  • Mortality – In emergency medical environments, such as hospitals, matters of mortality are inevitably at hand. Handling these difficult scenarios can be emotionally draining as human emotion makes it hard to detach and let go after leaving work on a daily basis.

Studies have shown that almost half of nurses report high levels of emotional exhaustion and that work had a direct interference with relationships outside of the job. Stress does not just form during work hours and for nurses leaving work does not mean that the caring stops. When nurses leave work at the end of the day they continue to care for their spouses, children, parents or friends. Learning to relieve stress from the job can ultimately make for a better life at work and at home.

Alleviating the Stress

The American Nurses’ Association (ANA) Code of Ethics has nine creeds; the fifth creed states, “The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to preserve integrity and safety, to maintain competence, and to continue personal and professional growth.” In sum, this urges nurses to treat their own health and wellbeing with the same attention they give to patients. Stress has been proven to cause many health problems, both temporary (colds, allergies, fatigue and insomnia) and long term (cardiovascular problems, migraines, hypertension and stroke). Taking charge and managing stress is the first step to having a productive and happy work life. The list below offers various methods to help nurses manage daily stress:

  • Learning to say no – When you want to do well at your job, especially in a new role, we tend to say ‘yes’ to any request. Over time this can create an unmanageable amount of work. Don’t fear letting others know that your workload is full; it is an important quality to be self-aware enough to understand your limits. Learning to say ‘no’ when appropriate can reduce stress.
  • Take time for yourself – Even if it is 20 minutes, take a walk or find a quiet place to rest, taking time out for yourself can release stress and benefit your health.
  • Exercise – Fitting some form of physical activity into your daily schedule has benefits, both mentally and physically. Whether running or practicing yoga, finding a physical outlet is a great way to release stress.
  • Cut the caffeine – If you can’t cut coffee or sodas out, at least try to cut down your intake of caffeinated beverages. Caffeine has been proven to elevate stress levels in some people, so lessening caffeine intake can benefit your overall wellbeing.
  • Healthy eating – Busy schedules and short meal breaks lend themselves to poor diet choices. Planning for and fitting in healthy meals and snacks can aid in reducing stress levels.
  • Family time – Spending quality time with those you love can be an amazing stress-reliever. Taking a moment to reconnect with family and friends is crucial to a balanced work life.
  • Make your own stress-busting routine – Taking a hot bath, getting a massage, writing in a journal and practicing deep breathing techniques are all ways to reduce stress. Find the techniques that work for you, and create a routine for yourself.

Related Benedictine Programs

With the proper stress management, a health care career in nursing is one of the most rewarding careers available. Benedictine University offers an online accredited Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree for those looking to advance their nursing careers while juggling their busy work and personal schedules. To learn more click here or talk with one of our Program Advisors today.