Staff under stress need our support

We need to do more to retain emergency nurses under increasing levels of workplace stress.

We need to do more to retain emergency nurses under increasing levels of workplace stress.

Picture: iStock

The demanding nature of emergency nursing places all staff under pressure.

As nurses try to juggle rising numbers of patient attendances with increasingly complex treatment and care processes, they can become frustrated. 

These situations often lead to work-related stress, which is a leading cause of sickness absence, high staff turnover and early retirement in the UK workforce.

Staff stress is a complex issue that is due to various factors, including insufficient pay, lack of professional recognition, and low managerial and peer support.

It can lead to burnout and compassion fatigue, and in some cases can lead to errors of judgement. Meanwhile, it is relatively easy for some members of staff to slip into maladaptive lifestyle behaviours in response to workplace stress.

Additionally, the magnitude of what emergency nurses witness in their everyday work can create the conditions for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to develop.

It is important that PTSD is prevented. Specific psychological strategies, such as counselling, mindfulness and cognitive-behavioural therapies, may help some presentations, but not all.

It may be argued, however, that management strategies to alleviate stress amount to no more than a sticking plaster over a wound.

Erin Dean’s analysis in this issue of Emergency Nurse draws attention to this disturbing situation and its effect on many emergency nurses.

It is imperative that the emergency nursing workforce is adequately supported so that the healthcare system can retain staff with the valuable expertise and compassion required to care for people at their most vulnerable.

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