Becoming a nurse isn’t easy. It takes drive, the right personality, years of schooling, endless hours of studying and some pretty tough exams to qualify to become a nurse.

And once you finally graduate and become a nurse, there are so many options to where your career can go, but in the end it’s all about one thing – caring for others in need.

Most nurses will tell you that helping those who are sick, injured or dying is an honour and something they find very rewarding. But in doing so, nurses often have to sacrifice a lot – energy, sleep, meals, time with their loved ones. Even their physical and mental health.

student nurse

The Workload

Nurses have been known to work long hours. It’s not a nine to five job. Most places that have nurses, like hospitals and aged care, need staff on hand 24 hours a day. Shifts can vary from night to day, and scheduling can be irregular.

Some nurses work long hours voluntarily, while others do it out of necessity because where they work are grossly understaffed. Whatever the reason, working long hours is exhausting and chances are these nurses at times feel compromised to work to the best of their ability.

And it’s not just the long hours that contribute to the workload, but also the nature of the job. Being a nurse is a high stress job where every nurse is forced to think on their feet, and their choices could be the difference between life and death.

Dealing with patients, families, doctors, other healthcare staff and higher management, it’s no wonder that so many nurses become weighed down with fatigue.

The Fatigue

Fatigue from work stress can get the better of many nurses. Between getting little sleep and not eating proper nutritious meals or snacks, nurses can burn out.

Because of how shift work is set up with rotational day and night schedules, in some cases working 12 hours shifts, nurses can experience a lot of potential and serious issues. This can include negative effects to their mental health as well as issues with cardiovascular health, sleep loss, heart rate and hormonal production, just to name a few.

It’s vital for all nurses to take some time to care for themselves. Ensure that they eat properly and get sufficient sleep. If not, not only with the fatigue get to the better of them, but it will also affect their ability to do their job effectively and may put patients at risk.

exhaustion

The Bullying

Bullying has been a major problem in the nursing sector for decades now. It doesn’t matter if the nurse is working in a hospital, clinic or aged care – bullying is prevalent. It’s so common that it has created it’s own saying: “nurses eat their young”.

There’s a hierarchy in being a nurse, something that is common in most jobs. However in nursing, graduate nurses or those who are new to the job may find themselves on the wrong side of nurses that a higher in the hierarchy. This can be from senior management or simply someone who has been at the job longer.

It’s a cycle that seems to still exist today – with senior nurses picking on or excluding younger nurses. It can cause emotional trauma for young nurses as well as low job satisfaction and high turnover.

If situations like that arise in the workplace, it is important to report such incidents and support the nurse in need.

Being a nurse can be hard and it can be stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. Many things need to be changed for things to get better, such as staffing and more funding, but a place that all nurses can start is to care for themselves the same way they would care for a patient. Care for yourself, eat and sleep right and don’t put up with behaviour that you think would be unacceptable for anyone else.

If you’re interested in learning more about caring for your mental and emotional well being then check out The proven, the practical and the personal: work impacts on psychological health conference” on the Friday 12th of May, presented by the ANMF (Vic Branch).

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