Regardless of the area of clinical expertise or practice setting, there are situations where every nurse can experience stress, and if he or she possesses effective coping skills they are able to overcome the distress before it escalates and causes significant impairment or dysfunction.
While great attention is given to maintaining one’s physical well-being in the health care profession, the importance of the maintaining one’s mental health can be under-recognized or neglected until it is too late. Similar to getting periodic physical health check-ups, the same should apply to one’s mental health.
In the health care profession, nurses can be faced with a myriad of patient cases or crises that can test both their physical and mental endurance and/or stability. It is important for every nurse to be cognizant of the status of his or her mental health, and an evaluation should be performed on an ongoing basis to ensure that one is in good health.
For any nurse engaged in clinical practice, there are five key things that he or she should be aware of as it pertains to their well-being:
1. It is important to periodically assess the status of one’s health.
For example, if one recognizes that they have been experiencing depressive or anxious symptoms for an extended period of time this should serve as an indicator that an issue may exist. Upon identification it is important for a nurse to immediately seek out the aid of a mental health profession to address the issue.
2. Recognize the importance of taking breaks during work to refresh from a particularly taxing or complex patient case.
During the course of any work day, it is important to take breaks to remove oneself from their stressful or high paced work environment to clear their mind.
3. Familiarize yourself with the key warning signs that may signal a mental health crisis.
These may include changes in behavior or thinking, lack of interest in activities that were once found to be pleasurable, or changes in sleeping pattern. These can serve as some of the signs that one’s mental health has been compromised and aid is needed.
4. Keep yourself up to date with the latest developments within the field of mental health.
This is particularly important since it not only affects you but the patients you care for as well. By staying up to date on latest developments within the field of mental health, a nurse is able to immediately identify situations that may have the potential to negatively impact their mental health or their patient's.
5. Realize that some stress in life is inevitable.
Although the goal is to experience good mental health both on a personal and professional level, there may be a time when there can be a disturbance in one’s mental health, but knowledge, education, and insight can help to address this immediately before it causes impairment.