Make time to listen to colleagues, who may be under stress

As staff are pushed to breaking point by increasing workloads it is important to support and engage with co-workers who are struggling to cope

There is no doubt that this winter appears to be the most challenging so far and the level of pressure and stress on staff is phenomenal. 

Picture: iStock

But, like every year, we make it through and have a new perceived 'normal' and, every year, the workload and pressure is increased. 

The resilience of emergency nurses is usually strong but all of us have a breaking point. It is important that we learn to look after ourselves and each other. Everyone has their own coping mechanisms and, in times of extreme pressure, it is essential that we rely on these more than ever. As a team we need to make sure we care for each other. 

How are you?

I heard recently on the radio a guest speaker say, 'whenever you ask someone how they are, don't keep on walking, wait and listen to the answer'. 

That struck a chord with me because I, like lots of people, use 'how are you?' as a greeting as I pass by and only expect a one-word answer. It made me think, 'why do I ask it if I actually don't stop and listen to the answer?' 

'Sometimes there are staff who appear to be coping on the outside but are struggling internally'

If I ask the question and someone starts to give me a full answer, do I have time to stop and have the conversation? If not, should I even be asking it in the first place? 

I'm not sure I know the answer to these questions, but it did make me consider, when we ask each other after an event or a bad shift 'are you ok?' or 'how are you?', whether we make time to hear the answer.

Being aware

If we feel someone is distressed, we do make time to listen. However, sometimes there are staff who appear to be coping on the outside but are struggling internally, or who usually manage well but have hit their breaking point due to a recent incident. 

We need to be aware of such colleagues, senior or junior, and ensure that when we ask the question 'how are you?' we give time and space to listen to the answer.

About the author

Roisin Devlin is lead nurse, emergency departments, South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, Northern Ireland, and a member of the Emergency Care Association committee 

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