The COVID-19 pandemic has recently put a spotlight on concerns for healthcare worker safety in the care setting, along with the risk of compassion fatigue and burnout. Now, more than ever, we need resources to allow us to continue working in high-stress environments and help us manage our anxiety and stress. As nurses, how can we bend rather than break when stress is high? The answer is resilience—the ability to recover and return from unfavorable changes or adversities.
The good news is that resilience is a skill we can develop over time to enable us to function in stressful situations. To build resilience in the workplace, we need to be kind to one another, appreciate small things that may seem insignificant, adopt a positive mindset, and ask for help or give help when needed. Key features of resilience include emotional regulation, impulse control, optimism, causal analysis, empathy, and self-efficacy. Think about the last time you were upset at work. Do you remember feeling a lack of emotional control or being pessimistic? It's easy to let negative feelings take over, but what if we could better learn how to recognize when we're experiencing compassion fatigue or burnout and take steps to mitigate it?
If becoming overwhelmed in the workplace is your “new normal,” you need the right tools. Proactively seek organizational and peer support, and actively participate in organizational activities. It's my opinion that our workplaces should recognize the gravity of the stressors we're facing and offer frontline healthcare workers opportunities to modulate stress through programs proven to foster resilience, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) training. Organizations can offer MBSR through their Employee Assistance Program. We know that when organizations promote employee health through resilience training, there are higher levels of workplace well-being.
Although resilience training may be a team focus, you can also work on developing the skill individually. Seek out resources for MBSR through community and professional nursing organizations. And also consider reading about emotional intelligence—the ability to recognize your own and other's emotions. Nurses who have high levels of emotional intelligence are better prepared to perform in high-stress environments because of a functioning level of resilience.
The COVID-19 outbreak has the potential for long-lasting repercussions, not just for patients and their families, but also those who care for them. Developing resilience skills will help protect our mental well-being in the years to come.