What if I told you that it wasn’t the patient load that was actually stressing nurses out in the workplace? Would you believe me?

Think about it.

A Surprising Way to Decrease Stress in Nursing #nursingfromwithinMost nurses go into the profession of nursing to care for sick patients. So even those days when we have one too many to take care of, is it the patients we care for that is stressing us out?

An interesting study done at the University of Aberdeen found the type of work nurses do is actually not creating the stress that they felt at work. Instead of patient care issues, it was what the nurses were thinking about while at work that was causing increased stress.

The researchers found that nurses “felt less stressed if they felt in control of their activities and if they felt valued and appreciated.”

Fascinating stuff, huh? As I read this article, I was reminded of the very first time I went to my business coach’s live event. It was in 2011 and I was sitting in the front row next to a middle-aged man. He and I got to talking about nursing, my jobs as a nurse, and how I felt. After three days of conversation, he said something to me which I have never forgotten.

He said: “Maybe it wasn’t your job that you left… maybe it was the fact that you didn’t feel valued or appreciated that made you decide to leave.”

Spot on! (According to the article and the research cited above.)

So if nursing stress is less due to the actual nature of a nurse’s work and more likely connected to how a nurse feels in the workplace… this can provide a new twist to the stress reduction tips we share with our nursing staff.

  1. Give the ‘Why’. It’s no secret that a nurse wants to do good work. And there’s no denying that nurses are task oriented, intelligent human beings who can get  the job done. This is why a simple solution to decreasing nursing stress is giving nurses the reasons WHY. If a change is coming from the organizational level that involves nursing practice, tell them the reasons why the decision was made. When a nurse can connect their work with the bigger picture and relate it to patient care they are much more likely to ease into policy changes and practice reform. Just telling a nurse to do something and expecting adherence is less likely to occur. To avoid push back, a nurse leader needs to involve the nurse in the reasons for the practice change.
  2. A Surprising Way to Decrease Stress in Nursing #nursingfromwithinOffer Choices. Closely related to point number one above, and certainly in alignment with the reported research article, nurses will feel less stress when they perceive and experience more control. What is the need to control really all about? It is related to the unknown. If a nurse is unsure of the future, they feel out of control. Feeling unable to control situations in the workplace then leads to more stress. A way to counteract this is by providing options. Sure, the organization may need to make a change. Yet is there any variety in the way it can get done? Can you offer your nursing teams 2-3 options and let them decide upon implementation? Allow nurses to be involved in healthcare shifts and you’ll enjoy a less stressed out staff.
  3. Recognize Meaningfully. Sure, we have all heard of appreciating our staff. And often it comes across as scripted or done ‘just because’ we have to. How about getting to know each nurse on a more personal level? This way nurses can receive the appreciation in the way that serves them best. Or, stop and appreciate your nursing staff even for just doing their job. You see someone maintaining hand hygiene or gowning up for isolation… instead of walking by, can something uplifting be said in that moment? Can you simply smile and say ‘good morning’ to each person you pass on the way to your office or next meeting? Taking time to appreciate and recognize nursing staff can go a very long way.

I’d love to hear from our readers. What tips above have you tried and what was your experience like? What are some other suggestions you can add to this list? Please share a comment below so we can support each other in engaging and retaining quality nursing staff.

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RN; Founder of Nursing from WithinAbout the Author: As a keynote speaker, bestselling author and virtual conference host, Elizabeth partners with hospitals, organizations, associations, and nursing groups to help transform the field of nursing from the inside out. During the National Nurse’s Week online conference, ‘The Art of Nursing‘, Elizabeth supports nurses in achieving professional goals of continued learning and development. Click here to find out more about how The Art of Nursing appreciates and celebrates our profession in a meaningful way.

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