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Managing Aged Care Nurse Stress

Managing Aged Care Nurse Stress
Photo: Managing Aged Care Nurse Stress
Working with the aged can be very rewarding and enjoyable but it can also take its toll on the health of nurses. As well as making sure that residents are eating properly, taking their medication, exercising, and getting a good night's sleep, aged care nurses also have to deal with emotional issues such as resident mood swings, deterioration in a resident's health, and eventually their death. With all of this responsibility, trying to balance a work/home life, isn't easy and as a result it's hardly surprising that stress is commonly experienced amongst nurses.

How to know if you are stressed

Although totally avoiding stress is virtually impossible especially in this environment, there are ways that you can deal with it more efficiently. With this in mind, if you've been feeling a little out of sorts over the last few months and suffering from a variety of the symptoms below, then there is every indication that you are stressed:
  • tiredness, disrupted sleep
  • feeling irritable and impatient
  • worried and anxious on a regular basis
  • decreased libido
  • loss of sense of humour
  • memory lapses, poor concentration
  • muscular tension
  • increase blood pressure and pulse rate
The more serious effects of stress tend to occur after prolonged exposure to intense stressful situations. Therefore it is important that nurses learn to identify and manage the early signs of stress so as to avoid more serious symptoms impacting on their health and well being.
Help in the workplace

EAP programmes or Employer Assistance Programmes exist in all health care facilities. This is a type of work based counselling system for nurses suffering from psychological stress. Advice  is also offered on other matters such as relationship problems at home or work, financial problems, health concerns, mental health issues and much more. However, some nurses may feel reluctant to air their personal problems at work.

Coping techniques

Nursing literature implies that there are several interventions which can help reduce stress levels in nurses including cognitive-behavioural interventions and relaxation techniques (Stress Management for Nurses p.17).
Cognitive-behavioural interventions
These activities were developed back in the 1950's by Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck and were designed to help a person manage their emotions, allowing them to change the things which they could actually change and accept (even if they didn't like it) the things that they couldn't change. The idea behind this thinking process is that by changing the way that you think about certain things, you can change the way that you feel about them. So, by identifying and changing those thoughts which tend to turn to negative feelings, a person can reach their goals and change the way they cope in life situations.

Relaxation techniques

Learning to relax is a skill which if practised regularly will help you to control your emotions and improve your physical well being. Slow breathing exercises coupled with muscle relaxation techniques can help
you to unwind completely and if practised regularly you can be in control of the situation that much quicker should anxiety strike.

Simple Tips For Avoiding Every Day Stress

1.Try and keep things in perspective and where you have several tasks to do, prioritise.
2.Having more information at your fingertips takes away any fears you may have and also clarifies any misconceptions you may have. So arm yourself with the resources and tools to cope.
3.Set yourself realistic goals.
4.Practise relaxation techniques.
5.Don't bottle up your worries, share them with family and friends.
6.Worrying doesn't solve problems. Instead, face them head on and make plans to solve them.
7.Don't be too hard on yourself – you're only human, we all make mistakes.
8.Eat healthily and exercise regularly.
9.Find time to have fun with family and friends, employ positive thinking and try something new.
10.Remember, everyone has set backs – they're only normal and can be overcome.

Resources: Stress Management For Nurses NSW Nurses Association 2006

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