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It’s no secret that nursing can be a challenging career path, and at the same time, it can certainly be emotionally and professionally rewarding. Nevertheless, it’s not unusual for nurses to experience sacrifices along their journeys in the healthcare industry.

Among the most prevalent challenges are those related to their health. While nurses dedicate their careers to improving the wellness of others, this occasionally comes at the cost of their well-being. Therefore, nurses need to understand the common issues and take steps to prioritize their self-care accordingly.

Let’s explore some of the common health issues caused by a career in nursing and how to address them.

Mental Health Challenges Prevalent in Nursing

Mental health challenges are among the most prevalent wellness issues experienced by nurses. It is undoubtedly a high-pressure role, with professionals in the field significantly impacting patients’ lives. But there are also common toxic elements of the workplace that trigger, influence, and exacerbate psychological unwellness. For instance, a recent study found that since the onset of COVID-19, 45% of nurses were not receiving enough emotional support  in their positions.

Alongside depression and anxiety, burnout is of particular concern. The potential for overwork, poor work-life balance, and stress means that burnout is experienced by a significant number of physicians, nurses, and even medical students. This extreme fatigue can have both physical and psychological consequences. Unfortunately, it can also put patients at greater risk due to mistakes.

Avoiding mental health problems and addressing the causes is challenging, as many contributing factors are systemic. Nevertheless, nurses need to maintain an awareness of their limitations, recognize the need for rest, and insist upon setting boundaries wherever possible. This is likely to involve frank communication with administrators and union representatives. It’s also wise to identify therapeutic mental health services they can access both regularly and at times of crisis. 

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Musculoskeletal Disorders

Being an effective nurse doesn’t only require mental acuity and emotional intelligence. It can also be a physically demanding role. There are times when nurses need to maneuver and interact with heavy equipment or bulky apparatus. Not to mention that they may have to move and position patients with significant body weight. This can result in the development of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study on occupational injuries found that 44% of cases registered nurses had to stay home from work were due to MSDs. RNs are 16% more likely to have MSDs than those in other occupations. There are occupational elements that may contribute to MSDs as well as other injuries.

For instance, the same study found that 45.6% of non-fatal injuries of registered nurses were caused by overexertion and bodily reaction; 25% were the result of slips, trips, and falls. It’s important to mitigate the potential for nurses to experience both short- and long-term adverse musculoskeletal health issues.

To some extent, addressing the risk of MSDs in nurses may be a training issue. Facilities should regularly guide on interacting with heavy or oversized objects. Nurses should also be mindful of posture when performing administrative tasks at a computer. However, this can also be a staffing issue. Administrators must ensure enough staff members are on hand to ensure that individual nurses don’t feel obligated to overexert themselves. This should include the presence of porters to handle equipment and other large objects.

Circulatory Issues Overlooked in Nursing

Circulatory issues are among the most overlooked health concerns that nurses tend to experience. This certainly encompasses a wide variety of conditions. It can involve severe conditions such as heart attacks. Nurses tend to work long hours, which a recent study found puts people at a 29% greater risk of stroke. The physical toll of the position can also cause less severe but uncomfortable conditions, like varicose veins.

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This is why nurses need to be aware of hypertension’s causes, which can lead to strokes and other circulatory illnesses—keeping a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and getting good quality sleep to reduce blood pressure. Maintaining regular checkups is also essential to catch warning signs early enough. Nurses should also identify stress reduction tactics that minimize pressure on the circulatory system.

In addition, circulatory conditions like varicose veins tend to be exacerbated by high levels of activity and overwork. Standing for long periods, alongside other factors such as age and smoking, can put nurses at higher risk of experiencing venous insufficiency. This can be addressed through nursing lifestyle changes, such as a balanced diet and wearing compression stockings during long shifts spent standing up.

Conclusion

A career in nursing can often see professionals exposed to a range of health risks. Nurses and administrators need to collaborate on methods to address these. This should include reducing toxic working practices that expose nurses to mental health challenges. 

There must be training and resources provided in nursing to avoid musculoskeletal disorders. A mindful approach to working practices can also mitigate circulatory issues. The steps aren’t always easy, but nurses deserve the chance to live healthy lives while providing care to others.

Amanda Winstead
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