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Stress Management For The Emergency Room Nurse

Take a holistic approach to stress management. As an ER nurse, you are used to a high-pressure environment but you need to take time to decompress and destress.

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Vectorfusionart/ Shutterstock
Vectorfusionart/ Shutterstock

As an ER nurse, you know how taxing emergency nursing can be. If you don’t know, allow me to share that many of my ER nursing clients say it is complete turmoil—but they love what they do. You can ask a new ER nurse or a veteran ER nurse, and they will tell you that the Emergency Department (ED) is one of the most challenging patient care units, but they will also tell you that while things can get pretty hectic, they are there to save lives—and that is what keeps them going.

Actually, nurses across departments share that they are stressed out. So, I want to visit a few of the common causes of stress and advise you on how to cope.

Nursing Burnout

Nursing burnout is a real problem. This is especially true for the Emergency Department. According to nurse.org, more than 15.6% of nurses report feelings of burnout. They further share that this percentage is rising at an even more alarming rate, with 41% of nurses unengaged. Those are truly disturbing stats that bring me to the following— quality patient care suffers when you reach burnout and so you must take care of yourself.

Home Sweet Home

Make your home a peaceful environment. If your home dynamic or environment has stress triggers, you must try to eliminate them. Contrary to what most believe, stress at home cannot be contained; it will show at work because it will weigh heavily on your mind. Living in a chaotic home environment can quickly affect you outside the home (i.e., your workplace).

Understandably, relationships are difficult and especially in a home with both parents working. Communicating your needs to a loved one or those that share your home can become quite a litigious situation. But, it is important that you share with them what bothers you and the change you wish to see to lessen your load at home. If they want to help you, they will be willing to change. 

Understaffing at Work

One of the most stressful situations that nurses will go through at work will be understaffing. While nursing will always be a job that is in high demand in the United States and internationally, clinical facilities and hospitals are having a hard time staffing adequately.

The cause for shortage in nurses is due to an aging population, an aging workforce, and limited supply in new nurses.

While this shortage in nurses means that you are in even more high demand—let’s face it, you can go anywhere in the world and find work. Once you are hired, you will deal with understaffing because nursing schools are not putting out enough graduates, and hospitals cannot replace retiring nurses fast enough.

Understaffing is almost always going to be an issue you face within the health care system, especially in mid to major-sized cities with the largest population of baby boomers. Sometimes there are not enough nurses, and you might have anywhere between 4 to 8 patients under your care. STRESSFUL!

With that being said, here are some ways you can cope with this understaffing:

1. Tell your charge nurse that you need help handling your patient load. It is 100% okay to tell your charge nurse that you cannot handle the patient ratio anymore.

2. You can ask your co-workers for help, “Hey can you help with the patient on bed 4c?”

The hospital staff is a team. Never forget to keep that team-based mentality, and you also must uphold what it means to be a team player. If the team is not working together, the job and or mission cannot be done effectively. And in the case of healthcare, there must be some solidarity within the unit and care team. People’s lives and health are in your hands.

The Emotional Impact of Losing a Patient

Nursing is a rewarding career. Yes! You get to save lives. But, unfortunately, not everyone can be saved — hard truths. You, as a nurse, know what that is like. The care team has tried everything in their power to resuscitate and stabilize this patient, but they just could not be saved.


Know this: It is okay to mourn for this person. Don’t beat yourself up.

Many nurses and doctors may feel angry at themselves after this scenario. This here is a reminder that as a nurse, you will undoubtedly go through this situation once, if not, multiples times throughout your career. Always remember that this is what you signed up for and that this is simply a part of life. If you have done everything in your power, followed protocol and core measures of care, you must remember that your best is all you can offer.

The bottom line is that self-care (physically and emotionally) is very important and taking action both at home and work will help you manage stress, avoid burnout, and deliver the best possible patient care you can.

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