Staff Stress and Resilience
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If a health care team member’s resilience is tested by extremely stressful working conditions, a challenging patient, or a difficult situation, ensure that there is a reproducible process in place that evaluates the concern and identifies and implements solutions.
Caring for patients during a disaster or pandemic exposes health care team members to the entire spectrum of human emotion, sometimes during a single day. Caring for ill or injured patients can result in repetitive stress that can reach acute levels of stress.undefined#ref7">7 Maintaining equilibrium, professionally and personally, in the face of fear, the unknown, anger, grief, and perceived hopelessness, can be challenging. Frequent exposure to high levels of suffering and distress can lead to compassion fatigue.6
Compassion fatigue is the result of exposure to prolonged, multiple stressors while providing care that exceeds one’s ability to successfully cope with those stressors.15 Compassion fatigue leads to physical, emotional, and spiritual distress.15 Some of the symptoms of compassion fatigue include sleep disturbance, irritability, anxiety, and loss of hope.13 For many health care team members, the negative effects of providing care are offset by the reward of work that they find meaningful. However, for some, the fatigue can lead to burnout, which involves a diminished sense of professional satisfaction and accomplishment.5 The negative effects of compassion fatigue do not only impact the health care team member providing care; they can also have a negative effect on patient outcomes.15
Health care team members should take steps to maintain their emotional wellness, with continued support from the organization, which plays an essential role in the maintenance of individual and team wellness.
When balance is lost in the workplace, health care team members begin to suffer the consequences of burnout and move from personal fulfillment and job satisfaction to emotional exhaustion and stress.5 The stressors of compassion fatigue and the cumulative effects of burnout can cause team members to leave the health care profession. A healthy balance is achieved through a person’s resilience, or the ability to respond and adapt well to the stressors of the job. The ability to be resilient typically determines how an individual gauges personal success and how that individual determines positive approaches to the next task. Occupational stressors that overwhelm a team member’s resilience can lead to decreased quality of care, damaged team morale, and staff turnover.
Resilience can be learned, and it can be regained. It grows with experience and closely follows self-confidence. To cultivate and nurture resilience, individual, group, and organizational efforts should be made to protect health care team members from being overwhelmed. Confronting suffering, while also being open to and present in that suffering, should be the goal of these efforts.5 Self-care and stress management are vital in decreasing compassion fatigue and the risk for burnout.2 Focused awareness of the challenges at work and of the team member’s own emotional responses to those challenges is integral to effective self-care.2,11 Meditation practices, such as mindfulness, as well as individual rituals (e.g., memory sharing), can greatly enhance resilience and awareness.4,11
Self-care on the individual level is the practice of taking actions to preserve one’s well-being, including a cultivation of self-awareness, resilience, and mindful vulnerability. Protective team factors provide democratic conflict management, a safe environment for candid discussion, and commitment of the group to work together on difficult cases. Organization practices should raise awareness about services, increase health care team members’ use of services available, and protect the autonomy of service.
Rationale: Finding meaningful outlets for dealing with stress and negative energy assists health care team members with creating a healthy separation between work and private life.
Rationale: Rituals are familiar, reproducible processes that can return the health care team member to focus or calm the mind amid sensory overload.
Keeping the health care team informed and providing accurate information is essential to minimizing stress.
Rationale: Unreliable or inaccurate information can increase stress.14
Ruiz-Fernández, M.D., Pérez-García, E., Ortega-Galán, Á.M. (2020). Quality of life in nursing professionals: Burnout, fatigue, and compassion satisfaction. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(4), 1253. doi:10.3390/ijerph17041253
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