At some point in every nurse’s career, they will experience a traumatic situation such as a hemorrhage, code blue, or even the death of a patient. It is important to know how to deal with the aftermath of this type of event so you can begin the healing process. Failing to take care of yourself or pushing away emotions could lead to burnout and potentially end your nursing career. Here are a few tips on how to process and recover after a traumatic situation at work.
1. Debrief with your coworkers.
During an emergent situation, your perception of the events that took place may be skewed due to adrenaline and anxiety. It is important to take time to debrief with others who were involved in the situation with you, so you can begin to process the situation. As you discuss how everything unfolded and begin to understand everyone’s role in the event, you will be able to process what happened. Be sure to address any questions or concerns you have about how or why things occurred the way they did.
2. Take time off from work.
After experiencing a stressful situation at work, ask yourself how you are feeling about returning to work for your next shift. If you are feeling anxiety or dread, it might be a good idea to take some time off. Talk to your managers about these emotions and see if they can help you to arrange some time off. Having time to process your emotions and refresh yourself will help prevent burnout.
3. Spend time with loved ones.
It is important to spend time with the people you love most after a traumatic event. You may not be able to discuss the details of what happened due to HIPAA, but you can express how you feel emotionally. Your loved ones will be able to comfort you and provide you with the support and space you need to begin healing.
4. Practice self-care.
It is always important to practice self-care, but it becomes absolutely necessary to do so after the emotional and physical stress of a traumatic event. Check in with yourself about the emotions you are feeling and what could help you to process and relieve them. For example, if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, try going on a walk or doing a workout you enjoy. If you are feeling physically or mentally exhausted, try getting a massage or taking a nice, warm bath.
5. Seek professional help.
In some cases you may not be able to work through the aftermath of a traumatic event on your own. It is perfectly normal to need additional help from a therapist. Ask your employer if they have reduced cost or even free therapy sessions for employees needing assistance.
It is important to remember that you are not alone and that at some point, every nurse has struggled in the aftermath of a traumatic event. Every day it will get easier and one day you will wake up and feel completely healed.
As many of us become more aware of what we should and shouldn’t be doing to improve our health and wellness, we’re continually searching for new ways to improve our diets, eat nutrient-dense foods, and cut out the bad stuff (We’re looking at you, sugar!). We want to maximize our energy so we can sustain our activity levels throughout the day, rather than having the quick surge of energy that sugary snacks or beverages give us, followed by the inevitable crash.
Although there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to nixing sugar from your diet and curbing a sweet tooth, there are some tricks to make the process less painful. Read on to find out how to cut back on this sweet substance once and for all.
1. Stay hydrated.
Sure, sugary drinks will temporarily put a little spring in your step, but a few hours later, you’re likely to feel a bit lethargic. Maintaining adequate hydration levels is essential to help your body function; even mild dehydration can leave you feeling sluggish. Rather than reaching for sugary sodas or fruit drinks, consider herbal teas or no-sugar sparkling waters like LaCroix or Polar. This way, you can drink great tasting beverages and stay hydrated without the extra sugar.
2. Watch out for low and nonfat foods.
In many cases, when a manufacturer reduces fat from a product, they increase the amount of sugar in it, so the products remain tasty—but, they’re not doing you any favors to reduce your overall intake of sugar. One example of this type of product is the low or nonfat, fruit-flavored yogurt, which can be a handy snack when you’re pressed for time. Instead, a better option is to buy plain yogurt and add fresh, antioxidant-rich fruits like strawberries and blueberries to it. You’ll have a filling snack, the benefits of anti-inflammatory superfoods, and you’ll forgo the added sugar.
3. Combine protein, healthy fats, and fiber for a power-infused meal.
Simple carbohydrates and sugars cause a surge in your blood sugar, then it plummets. But foods high in protein, healthy fats, and fiber keep your blood sugar steady, so you won’t experience such highs and lows in your energy levels. Plus, eating meals rich in protein, fats, and fiber will keep you feeling fuller longer, so you’ll be less likely to indulge in those donuts in the breakroom.
4. Bring healthy snacks with you.
When you’re in a hurry, but you’re hungry, vending machines are a quick and accessible way to satisfy an immediate need for food. However, with just a few minutes of preparation each day, you can bring healthier snack alternatives to work that will truly feed your body.
Not sure what to bring? Consider protein-packed hard boiled eggs, healthy fats like nuts and avocados, or vegetables with hummus. With time, you’ll begin to notice your tendency to reach for the sweets lessens, and your sugar cravings start to subside.
5. Take small steps towards change.
Going full throttle into a new diet is tempting. But, if things don’t go smoothly (which they often don’t), you may find yourself slipping back into old patterns. As a substitute for banning sugar from your diet all at once, pick one meal a day and make it a sugar-free meal—like a breakfast omelet loaded with fresh veggies. This nutritious meal will fuel your body and start your day off on the right foot.
If you fall back into old your old routine—no big deal! We all do it from time to time. Just restart your healthy habits the next day, and don’t be too hard on yourself. If sugar has been a mainstay in your diet for a long time, it’s going to take several weeks to months to get used to a diet without it.
When patients need to be moved from one location to another, and they’re in critical condition, every second counts. The transport team caring for them during these moves provide crucial care that can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. Today we celebrate them in honor of Critical Care Transport Nurses Day, held annually on February 18th.
Kristen Ponichtera, BSN, RN, CFRN, CTRN, CCRN, is a Critical Care/Emergency Nurse at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Medical Center. She knows firsthand the importance of being a critical care transport nurse. “As a transport nurse, no two days are the same. The job entails a lot of planning and preparation, as well as constant maintenance of didactic and clinical proficiencies. The ability to perform at a high level at a moment’s notice is a key element of the field because, for majority of the patient population, minutes matter,” Ponichtera explains.
After she spent years working in critical care and emergency medicine, Ponichtera became a critical care transport nurse because she says, “I was ready to expand my scope of practice and test my knowledge and skills to the fullest. Critical care transport nursing was the appropriate step. I then fell in love with the specialty.”
Like every health care position, critical care transport nursing has both challenges as well as rewards. “The biggest challenge of the job, which doubles as the most exciting, is to expect the unexpected. Every patient assumed under your care during transport is remarkably different from the last, and it is the responsibility of the transport nurse to be able to anticipate the needs of each individual patient,” says Ponichtera.
As for the best parts of the job? “The greatest reward of being a transport nurse is being able to give a patient and their family peace of mind by providing care marked by precision and exactitude when they are in their most vulnerable state,” Ponichtera says. “Practicing with autonomy and earning collegial respect is an additional reward in being a transport nurse. Finally, recognizing the impact made each day on the lives of patients and their families adds value to the career.”
If you are interested in looking into becoming a critical care transport nurse, Ponichtera says that “This is one of the greatest jobs in the field of nursing. Confidence coupled with humility are characteristics every transport nurse must possess, as our patients demand the best in care. But we also must recognize there is always more to learn. Luck is where preparation meets opportunity. Getting the right experience, asking the right questions, and never giving up are the ways I was lucky enough to get into this field, and I suggest you do the same.”
“Although small, the transport nurse community is always willing to lend a hand to those looking to break into the field,” says Ponichtera. “Seek us out and we will be happy to assist our fellow nurses in any way we can.”
Do you find that it’s difficult to separate your work life from your home life? Are you more accustomed to saying yes to people rather than no? Have you noticed that you often bring your work home with you in some capacity? If you feel like your work life is becoming indistinguishable from your personal life, maybe it’s time to rethink your boundaries.
Here are four ways to do just that.
1. Establish boundaries at work.
When you’re at work, what things make you feel frustrated, anxious, or overtaxed? Maybe you said you’d come in early, stay late, or take an extra shift when you didn’t want to? Take note of when negative feelings arise and the circumstances that may have caused them.
Next, think about the parameters you need to do your best work. These “parameters” are potential areas to consider for boundaries, and the feelings you experience when you disregard them are likely your body’s way of telling you to set some limits.
Then, examine how you’d feel if you’d made a different choice. Perhaps you’d have more time with your family or participate in the activities you enjoy. The boundaries you create for yourself in the workplace will make your job more enjoyable—give yourself permission to stick to them!
2. Acknowledge your limits.
When your profession involves caring for people, it’s easy to put others before yourself. But your abilities, whether emotional, mental, or physical, have limits. Acknowledge those limits, and don’t shy away from saying no if you’re stressed out, overwhelmed, or uncomfortable with something.
One way to know you’ve reached your maximum capacity is to think of your feelings on a spectrum, according to Dana Gionta and Dan Guerra, authors of From Stressed to Centered. The authors suggest rating your level of discomfort about a situation on a scale of one to ten. A rating of one to three tends to have a minimal effect on you, while ratings of four to six cause a medium impact on your emotions. Furthermore, a circumstance with a score of seven to ten will likely cause a high degree of distress. The authors recommend taking inventory of interactions or situations that produce a medium to high degree of distress and setting a boundary so that you can preserve your well-being.
3. If someone tries to push past your boundaries, discuss it as soon as possible.
Eventually, someone will push past the boundary—the safeguard—you’ve put in place for yourself. When that happens, try to address the interaction or circumstance at that moment, rather than waiting until a later time. If too much time passes, the person may not get the complete picture of your level of discomfort. But if you confront the situation as soon as possible, it can help you avoid unnecessary job drama and feeling overwhelmed, overworked, or resentful down the road.
4. Be mindful of your boundaries at home.
Sometimes, you may not be able to avoid bringing work home with you. But if that’s the case, try to stick to a planned schedule. For example, designate a specific amount of time to address work issues, then, stop when that time frame is up. While it may be tempting to ignore the timer, doing so can leave you feeling exhausted and drained.
As a health care professional, it’s essential that you honor the boundaries you’ve established for your home life as well, so you can feel refreshed and be at your best when you’re helping others.
Creating healthy boundaries doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time and practice. And, if your boundaries get a little off track now and then, you can always refocus your attention and reaffirm your commitment to the limits you set to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
When patients need surgery or any other procedures that require anesthesia, they need a good health care team working with them to ensure their safety. Perianesthesia nurses are a crucial part of this team. And in honor of PeriAnesthesia Nurse Awareness Week, Regina Hoefner-Notz, MS, RN, CPAN, CPN, answers our questions about working as a perianesthesia nurse.
Hoefner-Notz is the Clinical Manager for Phase I & II PACUs (Post-Anesthesia Care Units) at Children’s Hospital Colorado as well as the Vice President/President-Elect for the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN). An edited version of the interview follows.
As a perianesthesia nurse, what does the job entail on a daily basis?
Perianesthesia nursing encompasses all the care an individual might need around (Peri from the Greek for “around”) the administration of anesthesia—hence the practice name perianesthesia. Most people think in terms of recovery rooms and surgery, but this practice has evolved into so much more.
Nurses in perianesthesia guide and care for individuals through some of the most traumatic times of their lives. Surgery and procedures are nerve-racking for everyone. Anytime a patient receives anesthesia, there are nurses who prepare them, educate them and their family members, vigilantly assess and intervene as they recover from anesthesia, as well as continuing to prepare them for returning home safely. These nurses are specially educated and knowledgeable about many aspects of care, and various surgeries and procedures.
When I discuss this with nurses with whom I work, I acknowledge that they accomplish in 1-2 hours what it may take other nurses an entire shift to figure out. Perianesthesia nurses deal with multiple patients throughout a shift, each requiring care compassion and spot-on assessments.
I have the great fortune of managing our Phase I and II postanesthesia care areas. These nurses specialize in the immediate needs of their patients as well as collaborate with our anesthesia colleagues to determine when a patient is well enough and safe enough to leave the hospital after his surgery or procedure.
Why did you choose this field of nursing?
I was searching for a new nursing venue after 20 years in pediatric critical care. I had heard of the PACU as a great place to work and, in 2000, I took the leap to try this practice area. It has been one of the best career decisions I have ever made. After orienting and learning new skills, I remember thinking, “This is why I went into nursing, to see the whole picture.” It is extremely gratifying to be able to see a patient and family come into a hospital, successfully have surgery, reunite with loved ones, and be comfortable enough to go home to continue their recuperation in familiar surroundings. I love it!
What are the biggest challenges of your job?
My challenges are a little different right now as a nursing manager and leader. I want every nurse to see this as an amazing practice area and to reach their greatest potentials through education and participation. I try to encourage ongoing professional education and involvement. It has been extremely rewarding to see nurses reach professional places they never thought possible, knowing I have a small hand in some of that. Other challenges evolve around the changing face of health care and trying to determine how we continue to give exceptional care to our patients, while always being mindful and good stewards of our financial resources.
What are the greatest rewards?
I have been a pediatric nurse for 37 years. The greatest reward of this job is to see families breathe that sigh of relief as we reunite children with their parents after surgery. The reward is seeing a child well cared for, and not as afraid as they might have been if they had not been in a pediatric hospital with perianesthesia nurses providing very specific care for them. My practice area combines two great loves—perianesthesia nursing and pediatrics.
What would you say to someone considering this type of nursing work?
This is an incredible practice area with something for everyone. Some nurses want to be front and center, always part of the action, and there is a place for them in PACU. Some nurses want to educate patients and spend meaningful time making sure everyone knows what to expect and what to do—there is a place for them in the pre-op areas and Phase II discharging areas. Some nurses want a little bit of everything, and they can do that too. Perianesthesia nursing can be found in hospital settings, surgery centers, outpatient centers, GI clinics, dental clinics, and anywhere there is a need for anesthesia and excellent nursing care.
Is there anything I haven’t asked you about being a perianesthesia nurse that is important for people to know?
Perianesthesia nursing is so privileged to have a professional organization exclusively dedicated to this practice area. ASPAN is the organization whose core purpose is to “Advance and promote the unique specialty of perianesthesia nursing.” ASPAN sets standards of care by promoting evidence-based practice for all nurses practicing in this area. This organization encourages networking, as well as professional growth and development, for all its members and I am a perfect example of someone who has been able to expand my professional horizons by being actively engaged in ASPAN. I would encourage every nurse to seek out his or her specialty organization and get involved.
Whenever we finish an experience, we tend to look back on it for many reasons. For example, we may look back after graduating from college to remember what classes we liked or friends we made. We revisit childhood in our minds to think of the really good times we had and what it was like growing up. And, when we retire, we will probably think back to what we learned, loved, and liked about our careers.
At Friendship Village Tempe, a retirement community in Arizona, there are forty-five retired nurses. They took some time to tell us what they would love for everyone—from new nurses to experienced ones—to know.
“Everyone today must acquire knowledge regarding their own health in order to make wise decisions.”
—Mary Lou Adler, RN, BSN
“Being a nurse uses all the knowledge and skills that you have. Deciding to be a nurse means you have not decided anything yet, because there are so many opportunities in the field.”
—Nancy Dolphin, PhD, BSN
“Problem solving skills can be transferred from bedside care to international leadership in addressing and advocating for health and human rights.”
—Joan A. Newth, RN, BSN
“Nurses can be advocates for family and friends when they are hospitalized to ensure safe, appropriate, compassionate, and ethical care.”
—Rosemary Kessler, RN, BSN, MED
“Since Florence Nightingale established the foundation for nursing, our profession has continued and continues to evolve as an art and a science.”
—Joan A. Newth, RN, BSN
“The number one thing that I would want you to know is that laughter is the best medicine. The number two thing is—that laughter is the best medicine!”
—Marilyn Lehwalder, RN, BSN
The following are from retired nurses who preferred to be anonymous:
“It will never get well if you pick it.”
“Marry a doctor.”
“Old nurses never die, they just lose their—patients—patience.”
What advice would you share with your nursing colleagues? Let us know in the comments!