Dealing with Traumatic Situations at Work

NursingMay 23, 2018

As a nurse, you will eventually discover that it is not unusual to encounter traumatic situations at work. From a sudden hemorrhage, to a code, to the death of a patient, or even an unpleasant or dangerous encounter with a distraught patient or family member, when you commit to a career in nursing trauma goes with the territory.

Of course, if you are enrolled in an online nursing program—or perhaps participating in a nursing program to obtain your RN-to-BSN degree—it may be too soon to worry about how you will deal with trauma in the workplace. After all, you have plenty on your plate right now. But eventually, the issue is likely to come up. Here are some suggestions for addressing the aftermath of workplace trauma.

Debrief with Colleagues

When a situation is unfolding your adrenaline will be pumping and your ability to notice details may contract somewhat. Meeting with co-workers to review what unfolded, who did what when, etc., can be an important way to regain perspective on the situation.

Take Time

It may be wise to take some time off, away from work, in order to deal with the emotional or psychological fallout from the incident. If the thought of your next shift brings up feelings of dread, you may need some extra time to process your emotions.

Spend Time with Loved Ones

It may be helpful after a traumatic event to spend some time with loved ones. Due to HIPAA regulations, you cannot share specific details regarding the event, especially not anything that would identify the patient or patients involved. But discussing the broad outlines of the event may be helpful, enabling you to process what happened.

Time for You

Self-care is important even on a good day when you are a nurse. Nurses tend to focus so much on caring for others, they often neglect caring for themselves. This is counterproductive, however. In order to be able to care for others, you must take care of yourself first. Self-care can be as simple as allowing yourself the time to take a long walk. Or perhaps you should consider scheduling a massage, attending a yoga session, or even taking a spa day.

Consider Professional Help

In some instances, you may find that the traumatic event was too damaging to get past easily. In that situation it may be necessary to consult a professional. Speak with a therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist. Some workplaces may actually offer help with obtaining professional services.