Observations of an Emotional Nurse
After working many years in nursing, one learns to temper emotions. Perhaps it is a self defense mechanism. Perhaps it something we learn like any other part of our practice. A nurse can experience a wide range of emotions in one single shift. The important thing is learning how to temper these emotions to get through said shift without becoming completely apathetic.
Anxiety is anticipation of a tough shift. You know that feeling. You are on your way up to your unit in the elevator. Your stomach is churning. You feel tightness in your chest and can’t seem to catch your breath. This is the time to close your eyes (if possible) and take 20 or deeper breaths.
Anger is being confronted with a shift that is grossly understaffed. How can one be expected to safely care for someone’s loved one when you are doomed to fail your assignment just by stepping on the floor? How can we channel this anger and frustration? Get involved. Be vocal. Encourage Congress to support safe staffing for all. Call your Representative.
Fear is hoping not to miss an important piece of the patient puzzle. Having an overwhelming patient load or an extremely sick patient can sometimes drive the fear factor up. So how can we tame the fear? Use every and any resource. When in doubt, ask. When in need of help, ask. If you are in over your head, ask.
Grief is losing a patient that you have grown close to. Nurses grieve just like anyone else. While it may become easier through the years, there is nothing wrong with crying or feeling bad after losing a patient.
Grateful is when you show up to work and see the strong and competent nurses and nursing assistants you are surrounded by. Knowing that at any second someone has your back and you theirs. Grateful is witnessing sickness and loss and realizing how lucky you are to have your own health.
Joy is all the moments in between- laughing, sharing, and bonding with your coworkers. It is a shared cup of coffee or tea. It is that moment when you know you are part of something much bigger than yourself and that while it may be just another day to you, your patient will never forget your kindness.
Relief is seeing a patient through a rough shift to help them live another day. It is the sound of the next shift shuffling down the hall to send you on your way. Relief is settling into your bed after a long, trying, but rewarding shift and slipping into a sweet slumber.