Career advice

Stop trying to do everything

If you're feeling overwhelmed by competing demands, follow these simple tips to fend off panic and refocus your mind.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by competing demands, follow these simple tips to fend off panic and refocus your mind


The demands of nursing can leave you feeling pulled in different directions. Picture: iStock

Earlier this week I was chatting to a friend, Charlie, a charge nurse who had been on call for his hospital all weekend. He had been deeply affected by the sight of staff nurses crying in despair as they tried their best to cope with yet another relentless shift.

They're not alone. Faced with unprecedented demands, nurses across the country are desperately trying to keep going. Some risk burnout or finding themselves in a dark place where everything feels overwhelming.

Fortunately, there are things you can do and while they won't fix the NHS crisis, they can help you feel a little bit more in control.

Break it down

On a typical shift, there’s no let-up in demand and often a 12-hour working day doesn’t allow you enough time to get everything done. It’s not surprising, therefore, that even the most resilient of nurses feels swamped at times.

Often it isn’t one thing that triggers feelings of being unable to cope – as a nurse you will be skilled at dealing with a crisis and juggling priorities. Instead, it is usually the sheer volume and immediacy of all that must be done. At this point your mind can become jittery and even the simplest decision can send you into a panic.

It can be helpful to learn ways to identify what you need to do and in what order. Asking yourself these questions can help fend off panic and refocus your mind:

• What needs to be done now and what can wait? Don’t put added pressure on yourself by expecting that you can do everything by a specific point in your day.

• What can you share? Teamwork is the cog that keeps the ward functioning so don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. If you feel on the edge of panic, ask another nurse to listen while you talk through what you need to do.

• What can patients do for themselves? Don’t forget your role is to empower those in your care.

• What is unrealistic? There’s a difference between lowering your standards and doing what you reasonably can. If, for example, you can’t offer all your patients a shower, you can still provide dignified personal care.

• What do you need? Yes, it’s important that you put yourself in the picture. What would help you right now? Do you need a glass of water or to nip to the toilet for some breathing space? Would a couple of minutes alone to think about your home, family or dog make you smile?

Remember you are human – if you can break down what you need to do, the giant mountain in front of you might not seem so insurmountable.

Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance writer and health/life coach

 

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