Pensacola. FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – While the number of COVID-19 cases are decreasing and the number of adults getting vaccinated for COVID are increasing, experts say life after the pandemic for nurses may never return to normal.
In fact, Rich Bluni, RN, and author of “Inspired Nurse” and “Inspired Nurse Too,” said during National Nurses Week (May 6-12), that there is no normal for nurses.
“Nurses are used to living with fear – whether we’re running down the hall to a Code Blue, or having to give a family member bad news,” Bluni said. “But for us, the fear doesn’t come only from worrying about what will happen to us. It comes mostly from the prospect that we might harm someone else.”
New research from the University of Phoenix has found that nurses have feared not only getting COVID-19 from their work, but that they might expose patients to it.
A survey of nurses by the university found that 78 percent of nurses said that working during the pandemic has been the most challenging time in their careers. Nearly two thirds (65 percent) reported feeling exhausted, while almost half (49 percent) reported being fearful. More than a third (36 percent) reported being underappreciated.
More than 8 out of 10 nurses surveyed (88 percent) said they worried about their risk of exposure to the virus and 63 percent said they worried about their organization’s ability to keep up with a surge of COVID-19 patients. And while all but 1 percent said they were proud of the work they did during the pandemic, 46 percent said they thought about quitting their jobs at some point during the last year.
In order to make it through these extraordinary times and avoid the burnout nurses feel, Bluni said, nurses need to take care of themselves first. Research shows that increased stress and burnout in nurses leads to higher incidents of workplace injuries. A 2009 study published by the American Psychological Association found that burnout and stress can contribute to workplace injuries.
Bluni recommended that nurses should not only go easy on themselves, but also reward themselves a little each day.
“When you’re having a tough time, when you get a ‘moment,’ pop in your earbuds and listen to your ‘jam’ or Facetime your family,” he recommended.
And nurses should support one another, he said, by telling others they matter.
“Find one of your nurse peers, look them straight in the eye, and say, ‘You know, you really inspire me,’” he said. “Get specific about why (with phrases like) “I really admire the way you managed that family who was so scared.’”
And, he said, nurses should be sure to compliment themselves too. Bluni recommends nurses look in the mirror and tell themselves they inspire themselves, as well.
Finally, Bluni said nurses should record their stories.
“When times get really, really stressful, write down what you did and how it felt,” he said. “The most challenging times often bring out the best in you.”
And above all else, he said, if nurses find themselves really struggling, they need to talk to a friend or get professional help.
“Don’t try to endure this by yourself,” he said. “Help is available, and you owe it to yourself to get it when you need it.”