As an agency nurse you often fill gaps due to permanent staff being sick and in some cases this may be due to a stress-related illness. With greater demands being placed on the NHS in recent years, including job cuts and resources being frozen during a time of increasing patient numbers, it is not surprising that shifts may feel more stressful.
According to a report in The Observer, NHS Employers, which represents NHS organisations and other providers of care, estimates that over 30% of all NHS sick leave is caused by stress, costing the service up to £400m a year in lost productivity and the cost of replacing stressed NHS staff.
The typical causes of stress are the cumulative effect of dealing with difficult patients and visitors, bullying or harassment, as well as struggling to cope with a range of responsibilities and a hectic work environment. Poor experiences such as these may lead to a nurse not wanting to go back to a particular ward or hospital, unless the root cause of the stress is adequately addressed and managed.
Coping with stress
Preventing stress in the first place
Averting stress at work requires a healthy work/life balance. If you allow work pressures to impact on your home life too, you remove a vital pressure-release valve and risk your stress escalating to the point where it can impact negatively on your health.
Ideally, you should consider taking time out for other interests, exercise regularly and eat healthily. Beware of ‘thinking errors’ that can drag your mood down. For example, instead of feeling like a failure because you made a mistake, put your energy into learning from the experience.
When stress is caused by something that is predictable, such as a long shift or an understaffed ward, it is possible to prepare coping strategies to mitigate against the stressful effects. For example, practice effective time management to avoid work overload; say ‘no’ when others are trying to offload their work onto you; and don’t skip mealtimes and other breaks.
Overcoming stress when you are under pressure
When you feel your blood pressure rising, take a mental step back and unwind for a while. Think of what makes you relax (a place, a piece of music, a person). Out of work, consider taking up relaxing activities such as meditation or yoga.
If you are feeling stressed, it is important not to keep it all to yourself. Talking about how you feel with sympathetic colleagues, friends and family will relieve some of the strain and help you keep things in perspective. Sharing your feelings with colleagues may bring to light similar concerns of theirs, allowing a collective approach to be taken to seeking a solution. Of course, when discussing sensitive issues with work colleagues, it is important to bear in mind the requirements of the NMC code.
No more robo-nurse
Nursing can undoubtedly be stressful at times. Many nurses feel that they should be able to cope with anything that comes along. This mindset doesn’t make it easy for nurses to admit that they are feeling stressed. Agency nurses, in particular, change jobs frequently and can accept stress as normal rather than implementing de-stressing techniques. So it is essential to remember that you are a human being with all the vulnerabilities that that entails, and learn to manage stress before it manages you.
We hope you have found this article useful and if you are experiencing stress at work, further information can be found here:
To find out more about temporary nursing agency positions available call Cromwell Medical Staffing today on 03330 437 101 and you could be starting your new nursing position tomorrow!
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