Feb 02, 2017

Nurse Anxiety: The Weight of the Work on their Shoulders

Underneath that strong busy exterior you may see at work – being a nurse and taking care of those in need – this person may actually be a ball of nerves anxious about everything and feeling like they are barely holding everything together. Something you would not have an inkling of just by looking at them. But why are they feeling like this?

Being exposed to death

Nursing is a high stress job and they are frequently exposed to death and dying patients in their career. It is highly unlikely that you’d ever meet a nurse who hadn’t seen one of their patients pass away.

Being exposed to death the way medical staff are on a regular basis can make them more conscious of their own mortality, often giving rise to anxiety and unease. This “fear of death” can often inhibit them from caring for a patient who is dying or is in terminal stages of an illness.


Working hard at night

There are other reasons why a nurse may develop mental health issues such as anxiety or a panic disorder. A Norwegian study took a sample of 633 nurses to examine how shift work can affect their mental health.

What the research showed was that night workers and nurses who changed from day work to night work during the study period did not differ from day workers either in terms of baseline symptoms of anxiety or depression.

However, nurses who changed from night work to day work reported a significant decrease in symptoms of both anxiety and depression over time compared to day workers. That it concluded was that working night shift or irregular shifts where the person’s body rhythm and sleep pattern are affected can contribute to feelings of anxiety.


The weight of the work on their shoulders

Nurses are also under a lot of pressure – from doctors, other nurses, management, patients and their families. They are expected to perform at their best at all times, and even when they do it can still have negative results that are beyond their control.

Working in a job where life and death hangs in the balance, there is an expectation that the staff should always be able to save the patient – however this is not alway the case and it is no one’s faults. Many nurses are too harsh on themselves which causes this stress and anxiety can weigh them down. It is best to remember that as long as they are trying their best, and that is all that they be expected of them.


Low job satisfaction, high anxiety

Job satisfaction can play a role in anxiety in nurses. Many new nurses report that the heavy workload and inability to ensure patient safety can result in low job satisfaction.

Some nurses have expressed that poor management, with mismanaged scheduling and lack of autonomous practice can cause them anxiety as they feel lost in their job. That, combined with low salaries, can often weaken their commitment to their job.

Feeling disillusioned about your nursing job and whether you are on the right career path can cause feelings of anxiety and worry.


Poor work relations

It can be hard to enjoy your job when you don’t have a good relationship with your co-workers. High stress jobs are easier to cope with if you have someone to talk to, usually a fellow nurse who can empathise with the stresses of work – but if you don’t have that person to talk to then the risk of feeling alone and stressed are much higher.

Anxiety is very common in nurses who are being bullied – something that sadly happens too often. There is a saying that “nurses eat their young” to describe how cutthroat it can be working alongside nurses who bully their co-worker. Having nurses who may be of a higher level or ranking pick on newer nurses is going to cause damage to their mental health.

There are a number of reasons what a nurse may have work-related anxiety. If you or a loved one may be suffering with anxiety, there are resources available to help. Contact Beyondblue for more information or call at 1300 22 4636.

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