October 10 kicks of a celebration of the work emergency nurses do with Emergency Nurses Week. In the past year and a half, emergency nurses have faced a pandemic and the overwhelming care needs of a staggering patient load. Frequently, emergency nurses are the initial care provider for people who have COVID-19 symptoms, and they have taken on a care caseload filled with some of the sickest patients these nurses have ever encountered.
Emergency nurses are needed more than ever. As pandemic cases continue to rise and fall and as patients who put off needed care are presenting with even more advanced needs, emergency nurses are in perpetual demand.
As the need for their skills rises, emergency nurses are especially prone to exhaustion and burnout. Taking care of themselves becomes a low priority when the demands of the job are so high, so continual, and so overwhelming. If running to the bathroom is considered a break, how can emergency nurses be expected to keep up the pace?
And while there’s no magic potion to improve the work balance (let alone a work-life balance), nurses can be aware of doing whatever they can to make life any easier right now. And remembering that eventually, this impossible time will pass.
With an unrelenting job, nurses need to let themselves take shortcuts when they can. Buying premade meals or getting groceries delivered saves time and effort that are in short supply. The shortcut doesn’t have to lead to unhealthy choices. Focus on foods that give you the biggest nutritional bang for the buck. Prepared salads, cooked veggies, chopped fruit, and grilled meats are great choices. And when you’re too tired to even think about eating, a comforting soup–pureed or hearty–with bread and cheese will fill you up and nourish you.
Asking for help is often a nurse’s Achilles heel. After giving so much care, nurses are reluctant to admit they need some help. Whether it’s childcare, elder care, transportation, or mental health care, a little assistance can make your life easier–and that can make the world of difference. Even connecting with other nurses through an organization like the Emergency Nurses Association can give you the support you’re seeking.
Find the Joy
For many nurses, there’s been less joy this year. As waves of patients remain high, the emotional toll on nurses and healthcare workers is evident. Keep yourself going by finding the small joys in your day. A great playlist, a funny podcast, a movie that lets you escape (even if it takes five sessions to watch because you keep falling asleep), or even the softest socks that soothe your aching feet at the end of the day are good choices. Bonus points if it requires no extra effort and double bonus points if it’s something you can look forward to.
During Emergency Nurses Week, honor those who work in this demanding specialty. And if you are an emergency nurse, thank you for all you are doing!