When an American Nursing Association survey asked about the top three health and safety concerns, 70.5% of nurses who responded noted the effects of stress. In the same survey, 75.8% reported that stress can lead to unsafe working conditions, which could interfere with the ability to deliver quality patient care. Professional nurses and nursing students must learn to effectively manage this stress in an effort to do their job to the best of their ability.
Time management can often be a difficult task for nurses. With a frequently changing schedule and the potential of “floating” to different areas in the organization, stress levels can increase at a moment’s notice. Working odd hours with unfamiliar staff can also lead to mismanagement of time and disorganization. Fortunately, there are effective ways that time can be managed and important tasks can be accomplished.
Plan each shift – Planning out a shift can help a nurse accomplish more and feel more in control of the working environment. Simple things like writing and prioritizing a to-do list can help keep a nurse on schedule and help accomplish what needs to be done.
Prioritizing tasks – Nurses cannot be sidelined by mundane tasks when patient care demands attention. By prioritizing and giving lesser tasks to other staff members, nurses can make sure their energy goes to the patients’ needs first.
Take breaks – Throughout a shift, a nurse consistently places patient needs first, but there comes a point when the nurse’s needs must take precedence. When a break is needed, it should be taken. Even a few minutes of stretching or taking a quick walk around the building can reenergize and focus the mind.
Many nurses work long hours that often include overtime and a variety of shifts, which can cause irregular sleep patterns and insufficient sleep. Here are some tips to combat these issues:
Avoid overstimulation – Avoid caffeine if at all possible. If coffee or tea must be consumed, it’s best to consume it at the beginning of a shift and not toward the end. Many nurses will come home from a shift and watch television or do work on the computer. Television and computer screens – even iPad screens – emit light and actually tell a user’s brain to stay awake by decreasing the body’s natural production of melatonin.
Avoid light – Sleeping areas should be kept as dark as possible and a sleeping mask considered in order to block out all possible light.
Watch the temperature – Cooler rooms promote more restful sleep, so thermostats should be turned down a few degrees while sleeping.
Block out noise – Noise is an obvious challenge when it comes to getting to sleep and staying asleep. Wearing earplugs can help, as can turning off mobile phones and technological devices. Also, letting family and friends know when you plan on sleeping can help them from inadvertently waking you.
Studies have shown the brain requires proper nutrition to do its job sufficiently. Here are some important foods to keep in your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids – These are the healthy fats that aid brain function by improving the health of brain cell membranes. Foods rich in Omega-3 include oily fish such as salmon, flax seed, walnuts and kiwi fruit.
Avoid junk foods – Foods containing sugar, trans fats and refined white flours can cause inflammation which can cause drowsiness and memory loss, two things that must be avoided by nurses.
Antioxidants – Antioxidants fight free radicals in the body that can cause damage to important organs like the brain. Eating foods such as whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables is an easy and delicious way to ensure the body is getting the required amount of antioxidants.
Drink plenty of water – Nurses know the body requires water to function optimally, and yet many don’t hydrate their bodies enough. Even mild dehydration can reduce the mind’s ability to work properly. All people should drink at least six 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
New research indicates that meditation can actually physically alter the brain, which can decrease stress levels and make people happier. It can take as little as 20 minutes of quiet meditation a day to realize the benefits. Simply sit in a chair, or with the back against a wall, legs outstretched - any position that can be held for 20 minutes without causing discomfort is fine. Many meditation practitioners choose to focus on their breath because of its natural rhythm. But those just starting out can also focus on a mental image, a mantra or a sound in the room.
Remember that in order for nurses to give 100% to their patients, they must first give 100% to their own health and well being.