As a nurse, you’re highly effective at taking care of patients. Taking care of yourself in a pressure-cooker workplace? Not so much. There are things you can do as an individual to de-stress, such as improving communication or time management skills. But whatever you do on a personal level may simply not be enough.

Organizations have to change too. For example, being required to put in long shifts, rotating shifts, or frequent overtime contributes to high stress among nurses. Yet operating short staffed, the cause of many stressors, is a problem that only administration can resolve.

The good news is that health care employers have begun to tackle the factors that contribute to stress as a health and safety hazard.

When administration has adopted stress-relieving programs, they’ve enjoyed reduced staff illness, absenteeism, and turnover. In addition, a healthier working environment is a safer one. That’s a triple win for management, nurses, and patients.

Here are some ways employers can be proactive in reducing stress in the workplace:

– Undertake a stress audit/risk assessment to highlight the major stressors. (Use questionnaires or small group discussions.)

– Evaluate results and turn them into practical measures to mitigate or eliminate risk factors. For example, implement new policies on bullying and harassment, reorganize jobs or shift patterns, etc.

 – Collaborate with an employee satisfaction committee to resolve workplace issues.

– Offer “Caring for the Caregiver” stress-relieving activities for nurses such as…

    • Juice and muffins at breakfast;
    • Social events at lunch (at the very least, encourage nurses to just take a lunch break);
    • On-site neck and shoulder massage at a reduced cost;
    • Ongoing stress management training events;
    • Access to confidential, no-stigma counseling;
    • Gym, pool, or other health facility membership at a reduced cost.
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How about you? Have you been able to collaborate with administrators on making your workplace happier and healthier? We’d love to hear what works for you.

Jebra Turner is a health reporter and former H.R. director for an ergonomics-focused firm, where she oversaw workplace health and safety training programs for staff and clients. She lives in Portland, Oregon, but you can visit her at

Jebra Turner
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