Nursing isn’t easy. Some days we may wonder what we were thinking when we decided to become a nurse. Thankfully, for most of us, these days are not the norm. One advantage of being is a nurse is the opportunity to learn something new every day, and the good days far outweigh the not-so-good ones.
Stress is sometimes just seen as part of the job. No matter where we practice, or how long we have been in nursing, we can all identify stressful periods in our career. Five of the most common periods of stress are:
1. The first day of clinical in nursing school: How well did you sleep the night before your very first patient interaction as a student nurse? Did you wonder what you would say to your patient, whether you would be too nervous to provide care, etc.? We’ve all been there. It can be terrifying to venture into the unknown, especially when how well it goes can determine whether or not you have made the right career choice.
2. The licensure examination: Enough said.
3. The first day of employment as a graduate nurse: Hopefully you were provided with a good orientation to the facility and to your specific duties. Even though this is the case, it still is stressful to start a new job with new people and brand new responsibilities. It can be disconcerting to know that your nursing instructor isn’t there anymore, and that at some point other staff, patients, families, and physicians will be looking to you as the licensed nurse for answers. I will never forget the first time that I signed my name with the “RN” designation. My first reaction was, “that looks so cool!” followed quickly by “holy smoke, I’m the RN.”
4. The first time you make a patient care mistake: This can be devastating, even if there isn’t any harm to the patient. No matter how big or small the mistake is, it can cause us to lose some degree of confidence in ourselves, and maybe even question our ability to be a nurse. The fact is that nurses are humans, and humans make mistakes. Any nurse who has been in practice for a while, and who says that they have never made a medication error, probably isn’t telling the truth. Learning from the mistake is part of our professional responsibility, and if we are able to learn from it, we can move past it.
5. The first time a patient dies while in your care: This is just awful, even if the death was completely anticipated. If the family is there, what do you say to them? Are you so upset that you aren’t going to be able to provide much comfort to them? The situation as a whole, from the psycho-social interactions to the post-mortem care of the patient, is stressful. Many nurses never get used to dealing with death, especially if they work in an area in which they take care of the same patients over extended periods of time, such as in a long term care facility. Staying focused on the tasks at hand, at least for a while, is sometimes the best that we can do in this situation.
Stress certainly isn’t unique to nursing. Any job in any profession can be stressful in one way or another, however, nurses are by nature resilient and flexible. We can take whatever comes our way and keep on going. Nurses are also nurturing; sometimes that doesn’t just apply to the care of our patients. We may need to help each other deal with situations from time to time, because nobody can understand what we do better than another nurse.
About the Author: Lanette L. Anderson, MSN, JD, RN, is a speaker, writer and nurse educator.Lanette has been in the nursing profession for almost thirty years and has served on a variety of committees with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and committees for the Council on Licensure, Enforcement, and Regulation.Lanette is passionate about nurse education, and is currently an instructor with two online universities, as well as a teacher at the University of Charleston in West Virginia.