Stress is a common component of every nurse's daily routine. We're routinely asked to perform more duties in less time with a reduced number of supportive team members. Many of our job roles are physically demanding, and many of us experience complex interpersonal conflict between team members. Although we may consider ourselves somewhat desensitized, our jobs can be emotionally and physically draining, causing extensive stress. Achieving work-life balance may be a daunting task—in addition to our role as nurses, many of us provide care to children and aging parents while simultaneously seeking advanced education.
If you don't recognize the presence of stress and intervene, it can lead to burnout and physical illness. Consider these tips to reduce your stress level.
* Consult with your management team. When more tasks are assigned, evaluate the requests to determine if you can reasonably accommodate the additional duties and still provide safe, quality patient care. If you feel that you can't safely perform the additional tasks, have an open discussion with your management team following your organization's chain of command policy. By conveying a realistic view of the duties you currently perform and the time it takes to accomplish these tasks, you can jointly formulate an action plan with your management team that will allow you to successfully fulfill your job role and meet your organization's short- and long-term goals.
* Increase your time management skills. Begin each day with a plan. Many nurses find it beneficial to utilize a daily or hourly written agenda as a checkoff list to ensure that important tasks aren't inadvertently forgotten during their busy shift.
* Delegate appropriate tasks. Consider delegating certain duties to unlicensed staff members or other licensed team members who've been adequately trained and are competent to perform tasks independently per your healthcare facility's policy. Many healthcare facilities are providing additional education and onsite training to expand the duties of assistive personnel so they can help the nursing staff during times of reduction in force initiatives.
* Improve your communication skills. There are many communications styles that each member of your healthcare team may possess. By understanding how your team members receive and process information, you can better tailor your professional communication encounters, lower your frustration and stress levels, and boost the efficiency of your clinical area.
* Resolve hostility in your workplace. If your work environment is hostile, you should attempt to resolve the issue with the team member first. If that doesn't work, follow your facility's chain of command until the problem is fixed. Resolving conflict is vital to improving team cohesiveness and is linked to better clinical outcomes. (See “Is Your Workplace Toxic?” on page 22.)
* Manage personal stress levels. We often find ourselves overextending our obligations. To reduce stress in your personal life, plan specific breaks each day to enjoy such activities as reading a book, taking a long bath, watching a favorite television show, listening to music, or going for a walk or exercising. Reducing stress outside of work can strengthen your overall effectiveness on the job.
By managing your stress level, you can improve your workplace efficiency and job satisfaction. Stress can affect your life in many negative ways—empower yourself today and invoke the changes needed to reduce stress and improve your life!