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Nursing Excellence

The Online Newsletter for Children's Nurses
e-Edition, Issue 10 

Shauna Timothee

A Nursing Career -
Challenges in Caring for Ourselves

By Shauna Timothee, BSN, RN

Nursing is a career with many challenges as well as rewards. Nurses are faced with emotional and professional demands that many people can’t even imagine. Taking responsibility for the quality of people’s lives is a huge challenge for those working in healthcare. There have been numerous improvements to managing many of the physical risks of providing nursing care. Examples include universal precautions, needleless systems and safe-lifting practices. However, there has not been the same amount of progress concerning hazards to a nurse’s mental health.1

Stress is the physical and emotional response experienced when an individual perceives an imbalance between the demands placed upon them and the resources available to cope with that demand. If a person feels the situation is mildly challenging then only a little stress will be felt; if the person feels the situation is overwhelming then a large amount of stress will be felt. An individual’s perception of how negative an outcome could be will be the determining factor for what degree of stress will be experienced. An example would be waiting for a bus; if you are running late you will probably feel a much higher level of stress than if you have no time constraints.2

Signs and symptoms of stress include fatigue, disrupted sleep routines, high blood pressure and pulse, muscle tension, loss of appetite or overeating, decreased libido, nailbiting, use of alcohol or drugs, irritability, impatience, anxiety, worry, sadness, poor concentration, ambivalence, memory lapses, and loss of sense of humor.3  Physical effects of stress can include heart disease, stroke, immune disorders, gastrointestinal problems, weight gain, weight loss, eating disorders, diabetes, pain, headaches, fertility issues, allergies, skin disorders, hair loss, periodontal disease, and more.4

You have probably heard the famous quote by Reinhold Niebuhr, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”5  This quote is an inspiration for many people who have changed their lives by channeling their thoughts and assumptions to change the way they feel about their situations. It is easy for nurses to fall into negative thinking patterns that may have a large impact upon how they feel at work and at home.6

Holistic nursing sees all aspects of an individual’s life as inseparable and interrelated. One’s mental, emotional, physical and social situations are all connected. Therefore, what affects one part of the person will affect all parts of the person. In the holistic approach, developing a personal plan to help deal more effectively with stress will bring health, vitality and wholesome behavior into your life. Creating health in one area of your life will bring positive effects into all areas of your life. Specific modalities for coping with stress include yoga, meditation/prayer, nutritional counseling, biofeedback, art, music, dance, massage, journaling and cognitive restructuring (stress management). These methods have been shown to successfully reduce stress in hospital workers.7  Additional methods used by healthcare leaders have included institution of stress management programs; regular staff meetings to discuss feelings, gain support and share ideas; counseling from a nonjudgmental source; flexibility by supervisors to create alternative job arrangements; adequate staffing; reasonable schedules; group therapy; recognition of action on legitimate complaints; and frequent inservice educational sessions to improve skills. Some of the supporting interventions at Children’s include spiritual support, caregiver case review, employee assistance program, and support from colleagues and leaders.

Stress can be managed in a variety of ways that can lead to improved overall health and wellbeing for individuals working in healthcare. With the many challenges in nursing, it is still a rewarding profession that has a profound and positive effect on many people’s lives.



1 Scott Brunero, CNC, Liaison Mental Health Nursing, Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney; Darrin Cowan, CNC Liaison Mental Health Nursing, Greater Southern Area Health Service; Alan Grochulski, CNC, Mental Health Northern Sydney and Central Coast Health Service; and Angela Garvey,

Professional Officer, NSW Nurses’ Association (2006). Stress Management for Nurses. Retrieved September 27, 2011, from

2 Ibid

3 Ibid

4 Stress Management. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2011, from AHNA:

5 Reinhold Niebuhr. (n.d.). Retrieved November 16, 2011, from Web site:

6 Brunero, S.

7 Stress Management

8 Ibid


In This Issue

Becoming The BEST

Evidence, Research and Quality Improvement in Clinical Practices

Intentional Care of the Spirit - A Nurse's Gift to Her Community

A Nursing Career - Challenges in Care for Ourselves

Nephrology and Peritoneal Dialysis Clinical Nursing: What Goes On In Here?

Surviving Childhood Cancer

Necessity is the Mother of Re-Invention

Patient Satisfaction Comments