Working in the Time of Crisis

Working in the Time of Crisis

On an average day, nursing is challenging yet rewarding work, but these are not average days. On top of the usual concerns about staffing ratios, time management, and much more, COVID-19 brings new and devastating challenges and anxieties. A recent article published in the JAMA medical journal revealed the effects of caring for patients diagnosed with COVID-19 on healthcare professionals in China. Of the 1,257 professionals surveyed, 50.4% experienced depression, 44.6% experienced anxiety, and 71.5% experienced distress.

It is critical that we take care of our own mental health during this time. Here are some tips for working during a crisis:

1. Engage with your support system

Although you may not be able to be physically present with them, engaging with your friends, family, and coworkers via a video chat or a phone call can help relieve stress and anxiety. If you have experienced a particularly difficult shift, consider asking a coworker or supervisor to debrief with you. Discussing specific challenges, such as how to allocate limited resources or properly utilize personal protective equipment (PPE), or complex patient outcomes can decrease compassion fatigue, improve coping skills, and generate camaraderie. You should also…

2. Practice self-care

Self-care is an important practice to prevent burnout and improve your quality of life. Whether you prefer to read a book, enjoy your hobby, or listen to music, making room for something you enjoy will improve your mental health and mood and decrease anxiety. Researchers also suggest setting limits on screen time each day, including reading news or social media, and engaging in outdoor activities (with appropriate social distancing and PPE) to reduce anxiety. A critical component of self-care is to…

3. Prioritize your health

Healthcare professionals often care for others at their own expense. Repeated exposure to stressful situations can cause mental and physical symptoms such as head and muscle aches, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, maintaining sleep hygiene, and practicing mindfulness have been shown to decrease symptoms of stress and prevent compassion fatigue.

If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety, distress, or depression, please contact a licensed healthcare professional. 

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