For nurses, being able to recover after a hard day at work is "a critical career skill," Rose Kennedy writes for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
"Whether your particular brand of bad day involved bureaucracy, a toxic co-worker, or a patient lost, there are tried-and-true ways to make a comeback, right in time to start work tomorrow," Kennedy writes. She spoke with three veteran nurses to learn how they reset and rebound after a tough shift in time to go back to work the next day.
8 ways these nurses bounce back from a tough day
1. Let it out (briefly)
When you're having a bad shift, it's helpful to have a "battle buddy" at work who you can vent to, according to Patricia Dewer, a cardiac nurse at Piedmont Atlanta and Piedmont Fayette. "That's the nurse you can go cry it out with for a few minutes, then get it back together and step back into your nurse role at work," she said.
2. Debrief before the end of the day
If the entire group had a rough day, Elizabeth Binsfield, an RN for Homecare Assistance of Virginia, said it's important to debrief with the group before the day is over. "Replaying the sticky points and exploring whether there were other options we had can be helpful," she said.
3. Take your time getting home
Binsfield said she takes the long way home after a tough shift to give herself more time to recover. "Sometimes we don't realize how much noise the day exposes us to until we're alone," she said, adding that she'll either play "soothing" music on the way home or ride in silence. "The silence can be deafening. And very, very peaceful."
4. Take a shower or a nap to recoup
Binsfield said she continues this alone time once she's back home by finding other ways to "bring [her] back to balance." Some examples include taking a "long walk with [her] dogs, a nap, or reading something simple and calming." She added, "A shower cleanses the remainders of the day off and readies me for sleep."
5. Connect with your emotions
While nurses might not want to tap into their emotions, doing just that can help you bounce back after a hard shift. "Nursing is physically and emotionally demanding work," said Ann Stinely, an RN at WakeMed Health & Hospitals. To prevent herself from becoming a "bitter, burnt-out robot," Stinely said she gives herself time to recognize how she's feeling. "This sounds like an easy thing to do, but really isn't," she said. "I've been suppressing my feelings all day so I can take care or be prepared for overwhelming emergencies all day."
6. Break your thought cycle
After a stressful day at work, Stinely said she can have repetitive thoughts that disturb her sleep or keep her stressed out when she's not on the clock. To break into these thoughts, Kinley said she has to accept that she's stressed and redirect her energy by doing Sudoku, going to the gym, or taking long walks. "There is no panacea, but some time doing these thinks always gets me on an even keel," she said
7. Talk to management
If you feel you can approach management about your day, Stinely recommends talking over your stressful day with them to "clear the air" and reset. "I'll drop in the next day to chat with them if I need to," Stinely said. "What I don't do is… stay in my jammies and watch TV all day. I try not to dump all my stress on my spouse. Those strategies just don't work."
8. Look to the future
After a tough shift, it may help to remind yourself that "the next day is always a new day," Dewer said. "I might have the worst day … and the following shift might be completely different," she said (Kennedy, Atlanta Journal Constitution, 3/11).
Learn more: 5 strategies for reducing nurse manager overload
Download our infographic to learn strategies you can use when your nurse managers' workload is out of control.