Calling all health care personnel: EMTs, paramedics, nurses, CNAs, respiratory therapists, police, firefighters. All of you.
You’ve been cursed at, spat upon, hit, and scratched by fingernails. You never got that 30-minute break during those 12 long hours. You had to beg to use the restroom. Your staffing was minimal, and your 24/7 manager was nowhere to be found. Your fellow doctors are shouting at you, and patients’ family members are asking for coffee with creamer, sugar, and a Coke with ice.
You are experienced, and you’ve been through it all. The “customer service,” the “what’s your pain level” while your patient is on their cell phone, the family member in the patient’s lounge chair, in the ICU, inches away from the bed, so close that if you need to perform CPR, the patient is in serious trouble because you can’t move the family member away quickly enough.
The patient who claims to be allergic to everything except Dilaudid. The patient who complains that the ice chips are “too cold.” The family member demanding that their 3-year-old child come to visit Grandma, who is in isolation with C-difficile.
When you were forced to perform CPR, ACLS, on that 84-year-old malnourished male, and you heard every rib crack.
When you’ve always heard that “nurses eat their young,” but you hear from the younger ones, “Do you have your hearing aid in?” or “Are you ready for those tennis balls on your walker?” or “Are you ever going to retire?” Those demeaning words that subtly put you down, always followed by a laugh … a “just kidding” … when you know that you have been supportive to your fellow staff, both old and new. When you know that you have earned your wings, even though you have been used over and over again.
It’s not always bad. There are those “glory days” when you actually save a patient’s life. When you instinctively know something is wrong and you notify the doctor. When you cry as that sweet 92-year-old lady holds your hand while taking her last breath. When you witness a 38-year-old male survive a Code Cool. The impossible. He almost rose from the dead. And he sends your team a picture of himself in rehab, walking the hallways, and enjoying his music through his earphones.
So how do you survive? How do you take that proverbial “deep breath”?
Here are a few tips to consider:
Reduce your stressors. Work fewer hours, learn to live with less, reorganize your thoughts. Less can be better.
Exercise and eat healthily. Quit smoking, try yoga, take a walk in the park or around the lake.
Take time off. Even a short vacation to recharge.
Talk to someone you trust. Or seek assistance from the EAP (employee assistance program) – it’s free and confidential, just like HIPAA.
Minimize refined carbs and sugar consumption: french fries, fried pickles, and donuts.
Set boundaries. Overtime may be tempting with the extra money, but is it worth your fatigue, loss of appetite, energy depletion, and anger?
Spend quality time with your dog or cat. Take them for a walk – yes, even your cat! Put your cat in a wagon and pull! Consider adopting and rescuing a cat or dog from a shelter. They offer unconditional love. They will listen to all your problems and won’t tell a soul.
They may even save your life.
Take a break. Empower each other. Stay away from bullies. Take deep breaths over and over again. Smell the flowers. Look at the sky, the clouds, the moon, and the stars. And check your pulse. Breathe.
And a huge thank you to all who work on the “dark side of the moon.”