Emergency Medicine

How to Keep Your Emotions in Check as an ER Nurse

Working as a nurse in the emergency room is often gratifying. It’s also sometimes emotionally draining work. ER nurses see everything from traumas to cardiac arrests. Although the emergency room can be a life-saving place, it can also be a place with stress, fear, and heartbreak.

As an ER nurse, your job is to care for your patients, but you are only human. It’s normal to have moments when you get angry or sad. You also should avoid letting your emotions interfere with your job. Consider the following ways to handle your emotions as an ER nurse:

Learn How to Save it for Later

You can’t be expected not to feel anything emotionally as a nurse. Typically, nurses are compassionate. It’s normal to feel sorrow when you see a patient who is not going to survive or you watch a family grieve.

Breaking down in the middle of the situation is not an effective way to help your patients or their family. Remind yourself, you’re there to care for your patients, and everything else including your emotions is secondary. When the situation has passed, and you get a moment alone or with a co-worker, cry if you need to.

Focus on What You Can Do

Separate yourself emotionally from a tragic or difficult situation by focusing on what you can do to help. Maybe you can allow a family to be there during the resuscitation of their loved one, which may help them process what is happening better.

Sometimes even little things you do for a patient can help, such as getting a warm blanket. There may also be times when despite your best efforts, a patient does not survive. You can’t save everyone, but there are still ways you can help, such as calling the Chaplin or offering a private room for grieving family members.

Separate Your Life from Your Work

Giving 100% at your job is great. It’s also essential to not make your job your entire life. If you let your work become your life, it can lead to problems, such as stress and burnout. Everyone needs to have activities and relationships they enjoy outside of work. Having a meaningful life outside of work may help you keep perspective and cope with the emotional demands of the job.

Talk About Your Feelings

Working as an emergency room nurse will have its share of ups and downs. Sometimes the downs are tragic. You are not expected to lose all emotions just because you become a nurse. There may be times when you need to talk about how you feel or just need to have a good cry.

Don’t keep all your emotions bottled up. Talk with a friend or coworker.  Some hospitals offer debriefings after traumatic events, such as a resuscitation or mass causality incident. Take advantage of these debriefings to share your feelings with other healthcare professionals.

It’s not always easy to deal with some of the day-to-day aspects of nursing. Do you have a suggestion or coping skill that works work you?

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