By Vickie Harrison, Health and Social Care Training Executive
Helping and supporting those in need, whether you’re a nurse or a care provider, is arguably one of the noblest vocations you can choose to do. Along with this, though, it can be one of the most demanding, given the nature of some of the likely tasks within your remit.
There’s the old saying that it ‘takes a certain type of person’ to be able to do jobs like these; while there’s a degree of truth in this, it does create an illusion of infallibility.
Yes, it’s important to be dedicated and committed in wanting to help others, and naturally you need a certain level of expertise. However, there will be times where you may struggle with detaching yourself from some of the issues you have to deal with, such as talking through patients’ traumatic experiences during counselling sessions, or physical and verbal abuse when working on an acute ward.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Many nurses and carers face these problems in their careers, and mental health nurses arguably bear a more emotionally taxing role than most – according to a 2008 study by the Nursing Times, burnout among mental health nurses is much more common than one might think.
Different Approaches to Consider
Mental health problems cannot be easily pigeon-holed into one specific area. There are many different aspects and traits which people can exhibit ranging in severity, but ultimately, whatever difficult scenarios you may find yourself in as a nurse, it is important not to become too invested in the situation
You might be thinking that this is easier said than done, but trying to overcome these things psychologically is a huge part of your battles.
Try to remember that if a patient verbally or physically lashes out at you, it is often because they are scared and confused: abuse directed towards nurses is most often because they are the person in closest proximity while the patient is in crisis.
Additionally, it is important to remind yourself that this person needs the support you are providing: a violent response is most frequently short and sharp rather than prolonged, meaning that time and careful handling are often enough to diffuse the crisis situation and allow you to continue treating the patient.
With the above, there are other more practical approaches you can try as well, including:
- Counselling which can offer you an impartial outlet to talk about any grievances.
- Exercise and Yoga can be ways to release stress and tension
- Extra training in your field can equip you with more skills to deal with caring for others.
Finally, don’t bottle up your emotions as this can lead to anxiety or burnout; it’s important to take care of yourself. Consider the above suggestions, keep a close eye on your own mental health, and get back to being focused on taking away nothing but satisfaction from your important work.