Nurses face stress every day, and the profession has the highest burnout rate in healthcare. Studies show that 43% of newly-licensed nurses leave their first jobs within 3 years, and 17.5% leave within the first year. However, one nurse has managed to stay focused for 38 years in one of the most stressful areas in a hospital – the ER. Let’s briefly look at her story, along with some ways you can avoid stress yourself.
Surviving ER Burnout
KLS Broadcasting in Salt Lake City, Utah recently interviewed Utah’s Emergency Nurse of the Year, Jean Lundquist. She was in the hospital when she was 7 or 8 years old and fell in love with all things medical. With nearly four decades in the ER, Lundquist is somewhat of an oddity. She says that the average burnout rate for ER nurses is 5 years, which she believes is due to the high stress level in the ER.
"You can be sitting there doing nothing, and then bam, you've got five people from a car wreck, and somebody with a heart attack, " she said. "Even when there's nothing going on, there's the potential of something coming in."
She told KLS that there were days she thought she would never do ER again. But she remembers all the good parts of her day to get her through. She also stressed the importance of finding support from her co-workers.
Her colleagues say she treats everyone with respect, and her attachment to her patients is one of the reasons she won the award. Rather than talk about her achievements, Lundquist took the opportunity to encourage others to follow her path.
"Don't give up because it's hard," she said. "You can do hard things. And once you find out what you're passionate about, do it every day."
Tips to Avoid Stress
- Prioritize. Avoid becoming overwhelmed by sorting tasks from high to low in importance. Having a list allows you to know where to pick up if anything distracts you from your rounds, and it reduces stress from worrying that lower-priority tasks may be forgotten.
- Organize. The better you are organized, the quicker and more efficiently you can do your tasks. With every break from the routine, you create extra stress for yourself from having to catch up.
- Know that Patient and Family Fear or Anger isn’t Personal. The patients and their families are under a great deal of stress and when they lash out it’s because they see you as an extension of the hospital, not as an individual. When this happens, explain the situation to the floor manager and take a few minutes away to calm your nerves.
- Take Breaks. When you start to feel overwhelmed and feel like you just can’t take it anymore, ask for a break. Be sure to take regular breaks throughout the day. If you miss a scheduled break, make up for it by taking a few minutes later in the day. Your health and patient care suffer when you are under too much stress.
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