Nursing is an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling profession. With a wide variety of possible career paths available, competitive pay, and a strong job market nationwide, nursing can be a great career choice. 

While these facts are all unassailable, they shouldn’t obscure the realities of the profession; nursing can be incredibly stressful. However, there are ways to help combat stress! From common nurse stress to an unexpected stressful situation; whether you’re a nurse manager, registered nurse, critical care nurse, travel nurse, etc., it’s important to effectively identify the source of your workplace stress. In this article we will talk about strategies that can help migitate your stress to help you avoid nurse burnout in your career as well as common stress indicators to look out for. 

When trying to recognize the sources of high stress situations, being mindful of your own mental health, and working toward developing strategies to cope in healthy ways is important for all types of nurses

Strategies for Managing Stress

Before we outline some of our strategies for managing stress, it is worth noting that none of these strategies should take the place of professional consultation. If you’re experiencing the effects of stress or burnout, please consider taking the time to visit with a trusted healthcare professional. It is incredibly important to work with a professional who can give you tools and coping strategies that will work for you.

Outside of professional help, you might consider incorporating the following strategies into your life to help manage your nursing stress:

1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) – This strategy involves applying tension to a specific muscle group and then relaxing it after a short period of time, usually 8 seconds. In PMR you’ll generally start with your feet and work your way up your body, one muscle group at a time. For example, you will apply tension to your right foot and then relax it before moving to your lower right leg where you will repeat the process, then moving onto your entire leg. 

PMR is a great way to get in-tune with your body and allows you to become aware of which muscle groups you hold tension in. PMR can be practiced at any time, though it is recommended to do so in a quiet area with no distractions. PMR is an accessible stress management strategy for traveling nurses on assignment.

2. Hydrating – Being told to drink more water may not sound like an effective stress management strategy, but staying hydrated is essential for maintaining your physical and mental well-being. Hydration is easy to accomplish anywhere, on any shift, but you’ll need to stay mindful of it. Aren’t sure how much water you should be drinking throughout the day? Shoot for roughly half of your body weight in ounces. So if you weigh 180 lbs, aim for drinking around 90 ounces of water each day.

3. Autogenic Training (AT) – Autogenic training involves repeating a series of statements about your body internally to yourself. The idea is to develop a physiological response to these commands over time. Examples of commands include phrases such as “My right arm is heavy” or “My forehead is cool”. Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of autogenic training in helping individuals manage stress, including a 2014 study of Korean nursing students.

4. Journaling – Creating a journaling practice can be a great stress management tool, particularly for traveling nurses on assignment. Journaling is an exercise in reflection which allows you to express your feelings and thoughts in a safe and private manner. Using journaling to reflect on events or experiences in the workplace can help you put those events in perspective.

5. Develop Health Habits – Developing healthy habits around eating, sleeping, and exercise can make a world of difference in your mental state. This is difficult to do with the schedule many nurses keep, especially with long back-to-back shifts and limited staffing. However, it’s important to try to create these patterns for your mental health. Work to create a regular exercise regimen, eat a balanced nutritious diet consisting of whole foods, try to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, and take breaks on your shifts when you need to.

Now that you know more about some of the strategies for managing stress, let’s dive into the main sources and effects of stress to help you better understand the importance of practicing these techniques. 

Main Sources of Stress for Nurses and Travelers

Nurses around the country experience high stress levels every day. 

Here are some of the most common stressors that nurses experience on a daily basis:

  • Lack of adequate staffing
  • Long shifts that are sometimes back-to-back
  • Fatigue
  • Difficult patients or family members of patients
  • Inadequate resources 
  • Hostility from patients or their family members
  • Little control over their work environment/hospital
  • Loud work environments that can cause psychological distress
  • Exposure to toxic or harmful substances
  • Inadequate orientations before new assignments
  • Poorly defined roles in the workplace
  • An excessive workload with inadequate time to complete it.

Nurses have an inherently stressful job due to working conditions that include shifts of up to 12 hours that are sometimes completed back-to-back. There is also a staffing shortage across the industry. Short-staffed shifts may result in a nurse-patient ratio that leaves little downtime and can lead to more stress. 

When it comes to the patient and nurse relationship, most nurses accept that they may have to deal with difficult patients, but nurses may also have to deal with difficult family members. Interpersonal conflict can also arise with coworkers, particularly when roles aren’t clearly defined and other stressors such as long shifts and a lack of training are involved. 

Traveling nurses may have even more potential stressors than a typical nurse. Here are a few of the most common stressors travelers might experience:

  • Living in unfamiliar locations
  • Insecurity over the next assignment
  • Poorly defined roles on assignment
  • Working with a staffing agency that doesn’t understand your needs
  • Living far from support networks while on assignment
  • Changing schedules and long hours

Although working on assignments away from home with unfamiliar individuals can be difficult at first, having the right travel nurse staffing agency support you, a positive mindset and good strategies in place can easily help minimize stress. 

Understanding the Effects of Stress

The effects of stress can be broken into two broad groups: psychological and physical. However, be mindful that stress can appear in different ways for everybody and how stress affects you personally. 

Psychological Effects of Stress

Nursing stress may have the following psychological effects:

  • Difficulty communicating with others, including patients and coworkers
  • Negative attitude towards work
  • Inability to maintain a regular social or family life
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Emotional highs and lows
  • Difficulty objectively assessing emergency situations

Physical Effects of Stress

Stress can have many effects on the body, including some of these common effects:

  • Weight gain / loss 
  • Skin issues 
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty retaining information or learning new information
  • Overstimulated nervous system

How Host Healthcare Can Help

We believe that stress management for nurses. At Host Healthcare we work hard to make sure that all of our travelers needs and goals are understood. You will be assigned a recruiter that will work closely with you and support you during your entire journey. Our mission is to help you have the best assignment experiences possible and continue to grow in your career.  

If you’re ready to begin your career as a traveler, contact us today!