Stress Management Strategies for Nurses: Expository Essay
Academic Discipline: Nursing
Assignment Subject: Stress management strategies for nurses
Academic Level: Undergraduate-2nd Year
Referencing Style: MLA
Word Count: 2,055
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the physical strain and peril that nurses expose themselves to in providing high quality care for patients. However, what has been more subtle is the psychological toll that nurses experience through their profession, which can create health related challenges for the nurses, dilute the quality of care provided to patients, undermine best practices in the nursing profession, and lead to burnout among other undesirable realities (Lopez-Lopez et al., 1032). Stress management is therefore a critical imperative for the nursing profession, as it can equip nurses with the necessary tools to manage the psychological burden associated with their profession. The purpose of this paper is to explore some of the stress coping strategies that nurses can pursue, thereby providing some practical utility to the nursing profession, in addition to individuals who experience stressful working, living and learning environments. Moreover, the paper will evaluate how healthcare institutions can facilitate productive stress management techniques among nurses.
The first strategy that nurses can use to cope with stress is mindfulness. This approach can assume the form of a reflective diary or meditation. According to research, mindfulness is useful in coping with stress as it enables the individual to be fully aware of their environment and self, such that they desist from overreacting to stimulus or feeling overwhelmed (Lee et al., 87). Nurses can adopt mindfulness to not only become fully immersed in their roles and duties, but also to ensure that they maintain level headedness when confronted with stress triggers. The mindfulness example of a diary can also be useful in improving the self-awareness of nurses, such that they become more attuned to their own stress triggers, current coping strategies, the impact of the coping strategies on their ability to perform expected duties, and the possibility of adopting alternative coping strategies that would enhance their well being (Lee et al., 87).
Healthcare institutions can facilitate mindfulness training as an institutional practice, or by offering individual nurses with mindfulness resources. With regards to the former, healthcare institutions can offer seminars, talks, reading materials, and/or learning modules for their nursing staff. This approach would be beneficial insofar as standardizing mindfulness training as a key component in guaranteeing the mental and physical safety of nurses (Mahon et al., 572). In relation to the latter, healthcare institutions can offer mindfulness training packages upon request by the nurses, based on the rationale that some nurses may prefer alternative stress coping strategies and should be permitted to choose the approach that resonates best with their personality, background and other personal factors.
The second strategy that nurses can use to cope with stressful work environments is by making positive lifestyle choices. Specifically, nurses should be encouraged to maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and ensure they have adequate time to rest and sleep (Pelit-Aksu et al., 1095). Research has noted that fatigue is one of the most common causes of poor performance in the healthcare sector, which underscores the importance of a healthy lifestyle among the nursing profession (Barker & Nussbaum, 1370). The significance of a healthy lifestyle is that it alleviates any fatigue related determinants of stress, while simultaneously ensuring that nurses can maintain a positive health outcome that improves their ability to administer quality care to patients. The main potential drawback of this approach is that nurses often have busy and/or unpredictable schedules, which can undermine their ability to establish an exercise routine- among others (Barker & Nussbaum, 1370).
Healthcare institutions can facilitate the adoption of healthy lifestyles among nurses in several ways. First, institutions can offer important information on dietary guidelines, that the nurses can thereafter tailor to personal tastes and preferences. Second, healthcare institutions can invest in building gyms and other recreational facilities on site, which would enable nurses to exercise according to their schedules, and with maximum convenience. Third, institutions can provide nurses with access to dieticians and personal exercise trainers, who can collaborate with nurses to create a schedule that fits with the goals and schedules of each individual nurse. With either approach, it is important to stress that healthcare institutions can play a useful role in creating supportive environments that improve nurses’ ability to maintain healthy lifestyle patterns as a strategy to cope with stressful working environments.
The third strategy that nurses can use to manage stress is by freely communicating their challenges to the matron, chief nursing officer, or chief nursing executive. The rationale for this approach is that nurses often feel overwhelmed by practices or expectations that are within the control and purview of the matron, implying that the latter can offer assistance or advice that can be useful to the nurse. For instance, during the pandemic, a common challenge experienced by nurses was the burden of working overtime- necessitated by the high demand for healthcare services within the general population (Aggar et al., 91). Qualitative research indicated that nurses who communicated their experiences and feelings to the matrons had better stress coping strategies, as the matrons were often able to either remove the stressor entirely (for example by hiring more temporary nurses) or offer advice that can improve the stress coping mechanisms used by the nurses (Aggar et al., 91; Zhang et al., 1584).
The establishment and maintenance of open communication channels between the nurses and matrons is contingent on the policies adopted by the healthcare institution in question. First, it is imperative to appoint matrons who are interested in the welfare and wellbeing of nurses, implying that there should be a balance between their supervisory responsibilities and administrative duties. Second, it is important to ensure that nurses are actively encouraged to seek support, guidance and assistance from the matron, for instance by creating roundtable dates where nurses openly communicate with the matron on a range of issues affecting their professional or personal wellbeing. Third, it is important that the upper levels of the nursing hierarchy adopt a leadership style that is conducive to open communication channels with the nursing staff. According to literature, the transformational leadership style would be useful, as it is contingent on empowering followers to take initiative and assume an active role in resolving challenges faced within the institution (Echevarria et al., 168). Similarly, the servant-oriented leadership style would be equally useful as it would place the needs of the followers (nurses in this instance) as a priority for the leadership (Kul et al., 1168). Moreover, qualitative research has provided support for the assertion that the leadership style adopted by the upper hierarchy in healthcare institutions is a critical determinant of the culture adopted at the organization, which then has either a direct or indirect influence on the health and wellbeing of all organizational members. (Echevarria et al., 168).
The fourth strategy that nurses can adopt to cope with stress is seeking peer support. According to Li et al. (204), the challenges faced by nurses over the course of performing their duties are often applicable to fellow nurses. This implies that seeking peer support would be useful, as a nurse can benefit from feeling understood and being provided with actionable advice that can be used to alleviate stress (Li et al., 204). Peer support is also useful because it demonstrates that the nurse is not experiencing unique or novel stressors in the workplace environment, thereby potentially reducing feelings of helplessness and being overwhelmed. Peer support is equally important because it fosters a sense of community within the nursing staff, thereby improving the likelihood of positive communication and interaction- which can also alleviate stress.
Healthcare facilities can actively promote peer support for nurses in a variety of ways. First, institutions are well placed to pair newly recruited nurses with experienced nurses, thereby creating an automatic peer support pairing system that can be useful for newly recruited nurses. Second, institutions can provide seminars or talks whereby the more experienced nurses discuss work related challenges and issues with junior nurses- thereby also providing a form of peer support. Third, healthcare facilities can actively encourage the creation of peer support groups within the hospital, where nurses can have the prerogative to join a peer support group that suits their personal expectations or preferences. Finally, healthcare institutions can seek input from the nurses on what kind of peer support system should be established, for instance by administering a survey among all nurses working at the institution.
The fourth strategy that nurses can use to cope with stressful environments is by relying on counselling or therapy services. Research has noted that on the one hand, nurses are expected to project a demeanour of confidence, assurance, professionalism and competence in order to carry out their expected duties and responsibilities (Aggar et al., 92). On the other hand, both the personal and professional environments can create feelings of insecurity, fear, and uncertainty, which nurses are typically encouraged to hide or manage privately (Aggar et al., 92). The implication is the possibility of a dissonance between the emotional realities that are publicly disclosed, versus those that are privately experienced. As such, counseling or therapy can be a useful and effective stress coping strategy as it would provide the space in which nurses can openly discuss feelings or thoughts that are antithetical to the professional demeanour they are expected to maintain. In counselling, nurses can discuss a range of factors with the assurance that this will not impact how they are treated or perceived at work.
Healthcare institutions can facilitate the counselling stress coping strategy by offering counselling services for nurses within the hospital. Ideally, the counselling services would be provided by an external third party, which would improve the utilization rates among the nurses. Second, healthcare institutions can offer financial support for nurses who prefer an external counsellor, for instance by shouldering some percentage of the cost, or providing medical benefits and/or insurance coverage. Third, healthcare institutions can provide support by addressing the stigma attached to nurses displaying ‘unprofessional’ emotions or thoughts. That is, it would be beneficial to create an environment where nurses feel supported to experience human feelings, emotions and realities, without necessarily framing that as harmful to their ability to perform the expected duties and responsibilities. This approach may be useful insofar as enabling the nurses to openly seek counselling or therapy to discuss negative emotions that can affect their performance and wellbeing.
The final strategy that nurses can use to cope with stress is by maintaining a work-life balance. Over the course of the pandemic, this was arguably difficult to establish as most nurses had to work overtime and dealt with the ramifications of the pandemic in both the professional and the personal contexts. However, the maintenance of a work-life balance is important in that it enables nurses to leave the work-related stressors in the workplace, such that they can focus on rest and relaxation in their home environments (Lee et al., 93). The work-life balance is equally important because it enables the nurse to establish clear boundaries that can be useful in maintaining a less stressful existence. Healthcare institutions can play a pivotal role in supporting nurses’ establishment of a work-life balance. First, institutions can respect the nurses’ home environment by refraining from calling them in to work or discussing work related issues while they are at home. Second, institutions can offer mandated ‘home’ days to the nurses, whereby the nurse is expected to take at least three weeks at home every six months. Third, institutions can facilitate work-life balance by encouraging nurses to limit work related communication (for instance emails, texts and notifications) while they are at home.
In conclusion, the purpose of this essay was to examine some of the stress coping strategies that can be used by nurses. The importance of stress coping management is pronounced within the nursing profession, as work related responsibilities and demands can often create stress triggers that can affect performance in addition to undermining physical, emotional and psychological wellness. The paper argued that nurses can manage stress through mindfulness; the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle; the establishment of communication channels with the upper hierarchy of the nursing staff; peer support; therapy and counselling; as well as maintaining a work-life balance. The paper also argued that healthcare institutions should play a leading role in providing resources and/or creating an environment that is conducive to the adoption of positive stress coping strategies within the nursing profession.
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