Career advice

Managing emotions at work

Every nurse is taught during training to put their emotions to one side when making decisions about patient care.

Every nurse is taught during training to put their emotions to one side when making decisions about patient care. Objectivity enables nurses to make evidence-based decisions. However, remaining objective is not easy.

Here are some tips for remaining objective and emotionally aware:

Know your emotions It is important to remain objective even in the presence of emotions, as they cannot always be eliminated. Ask yourself questions such as ‘what am I feeling?’ and ‘why?’ to determine if these emotions are appropriate in the decision-making process. If emotions are personal and can’t contribute to patient care, discard them.

Consider a balance While clinical reasoning and evidence-based decision making are essential to patient care, emotions play a role in the decision-making process. They help nurses understand a patient’s social and psychological environment, which enables care decisions to be tailored to the patient. Nurses need to balance rational thought with the presence of emotions

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Avoid oversimplification When applying evidence-based care decisions from established research or textbooks, nurses must remember that patients are never textbook examples and all findings need to be adapted to each patient. This refers to evaluating a patient’s medical condition and evaluating our instinctive responses to their symptoms.

Focus on patient emotions To boost objectivity, focus on the patient’s emotions over your own feelings. Patients often react emotionally to their diagnosis and symptoms, so it is essential that their emotions and situation are taken into account. This will also shift the focus away from your own emotions, which can help in cases that are ethically controversial or when patients make decisions contrary to medical advice.

Reflection and reason Consider keeping a journal of your emotions, or reflect on them in a group discussion. Spend a few minutes each day making an entry. Jot down situations where you felt strongly, while preserving patient confidentiality. Emotional awareness is a vital component of care and can aid patients’ recovery. Emotions enhance critical thinking skills, but getting the right balance in care decisions is a skill only developed through experience.

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