The nervous nurse

new-nurseWhen I was a student nurse, I quaked with nervous energy.

I – personally – didn’t handle my anxiety well. It pulsed through my veins and caused my skin to vibrate with apprehension.

To cope, I procrastinated, self-medicated, and just plain lost my mind at times.

So, I feel for student nurses. I think they’re mistreated, unappreciated, and just plain tired.

As a home health nurse, I don’t get to interact with student nurses very often anymore.

However, if I did, I’d cut them some slack.  I don’t think anxiety-ridden student nurses are safe nurses.

Sure, we must watch them, teach them, and grade them, but we don’t need to grill them about medications, disease processes, and everything else they need to remember whilst working on the floor.

It isn’t good for them and it isn’t good for their patients.

The New Nurse

I’ve never met a new nurse who wasn’t nervous their first day on the floor. Nerves are a natural phenomenon associated with all new ventures.

However, as a profession, nursing has a steeper learning curve than most.

All new nurses must master interpersonal skills, electronic charting, and all kinds of crazy products simultaneously.

“Some days will be hard and others will be easier.”

And on top of all that, they must learn the culture and avoid the a-holes who want to eat them alive, a challenge in and of itself.

Is it any wonder that these new nurses come to develop anxieties and insecurities as they learn their job? Frankly, it’s surprising we don’t have a higher mental illness rate of occurrence than we do.

The Veteran

And finally, we have the veterans.  I don’t know what happened during their career, but some veteran nurses are shell shocked.

You know the type. They creep along the hallway timidly, dodging perceived threats like bullets from an AK-47.

Somewhere along the line they’ve associated their career with pressure, intimidation, and fear. As a result, they become increasingly ill-equipped to deal with the everyday stresses of the job.

Mismanaged anxiety leads to poor work performance, poor patient care, and poor well being in general.

So, it behooves us to embrace strategies for dealing with the anxiety that naturally ebbs and flows while carrying out our duties on shift.

First, we must accept that we cannot control every situation that may present itself.

We can’t possibly be expected to deal with explosive diarrhea in room 202, aggravated Mr. I Need Pain Meds Now in 206, and crazy Aunt Mabel in 201 like robotic automatons, devoid of any central nervous system.

The best we can hope to do is manage the challenging situations that come our way by relying on the skills we have developed and the training we have received.

We also have to accept that we can’t handle every patient’s case with ease and perfection; we can only do the best we can with what we have.

We owe it to ourselves to take the proverbial chill pill once in a while, to acknowledge that our job is difficult—more difficult than most.

Some days will be hard and others will be easier, but anxiety doesn’t have to remain our constant companion.

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