Written by: Shannon McPeek, BSN, RN
We asked one of our interns what her top three questions are before she enters into the profession. Below are our answers. Do you have questions? Would you respond differently? Comment below!
1.How did Covid change nursing for you?
When I first started my career I experienced crippling anxiety. After about 1.5 years I was able to take control of that. During the pandemic, specifically early on, my anxiety came back. There was so much unknown. As someone who has always been intense on hand hygiene, the pandemic made me take it to the next level. Going into and out of work was a process. I’d wear one mask into work, switch the mask while I was there, and then wear a different one leaving. I wore different shoes for the commute to work and kept my work shoes in my car. Upon arriving home, we had a laundry basket at the door that was solely for our work clothes, we’d strip and run to the bathroom to shower immediately.
This, and caring for vulnerable populations took me into a rough mental health space. I can’t speak for all nurses, but I can say that it is work to find love for your profession again. For a short period of time people appreciated our profession, and like all things the public soon forgot. We did not. Anxiety and depression in nursing has always been a significant issue, COVID just brought it to the forefront and helped us all sit down to truly see that change needed to happen.
2.What ways have you found to best help with stress and anxiety as a nurse?
First and foremost you need to realize you are not alone in your feelings. That experiencing stress, anxiety, burnout, worry, fear is not a unique problem and does not make you weak. Acknowledge that what we see, what we cope with, and how dangerous our profession actually is is difficult for anyone to deal with, let alone young professionals.
Second, talk things through. Even if you don’t feel that you need to. I promise you that seeing a patient die, getting yelled at by coworkers or family, being swung at, it leaves a mark. Even if you feel strong, stoic, unaffected, you need to process these interactions. Talk to a therapist, a coworker, even yourself through diary entries. We need to acknowledge the traumas we experience in order to adequately cope in the long run.
Lastly, find your stress relievers. Whether that’s a community, a physical act, a mental act, whatever. Find something that grounds you, that brings you back, that helps you think clearly. This will change your perspective and help you analyze situations accurately instead of spiraling into irrational thought.
3.How do you make sure you make time for yourself as a nurse?
BOUNDARIES! Calling all nurses, all future nurses, or friends just reading this. Boundaries are SO important. Yes, your unit is short staffed. Yes, your coworkers need your help. But are you going to be able to be the best nurse you can be when you’ve spent no time recouping and focusing on YOUR needs? Set boundaries about overtime and about what you’re willing to do for your profession.
Your life shouldn’t be consumed by your profession. Find passions outside of the profession and let them exhilarate you. Finding another passion helps you focus on yourself as an individual, it may even help you remember why you became a nurse in the first place.
Above all remember that you matter, that you are not alone, and that you have a support system with Operation Happy Nurse.