Stress Management Tips for A&E Nurses

By Rachel Lamb . 12/12/2023 · 8 Minute read

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There’s no doubt that A&E Nurses are some of the hardest-working staff in the healthcare system. No two days are ever the same, with a constant flow of high-pressured, emergency cases that need to be dealt with quickly and efficiently. That, on top of the ever-increasing demand for emergency care with an ever-decreasing amount of available beds, has resulted in one of the most hard-pushed and high-stress departments in the entire hospital. 

So, with all these things considered, it’s no wonder A&E staff are finding it more and more challenging to manage their stress levels and general mental health at work. If you’re an A&E nurse or doctor, this article has been written to help you combat these challenges and maintain your mental and physical health.

Let’s get started…

What are common stressors for A&E Nurses?

A&E Nurses face unique stressors like high patient volumes, critical care situations, and the emotional toll of dealing with life-threatening emergencies. The unpredictability of each shift and the need for rapid decision-making under pressure also contribute significantly to their stress levels.

Why is stress management crucial for A&E Nurses?

Effective stress management is vital for A&E Nurses to maintain their mental health and prevent burnout. It not only affects their well-being but also influences their ability to provide the best patient care. Prolonged stress can lead to physical health problems, emotional exhaustion, and decreased job satisfaction, which in turn leads to more and more workers leaving the profession, increased staff shortages, and higher patient backlogs (which in turn creates more stress for nursing staff - and on and on the vicious circle goes.)

What are effective stress management techniques for A&E Nurses?

There are multiple techniques that can be used by nursing staff to help manage high-stress levels. Let’s break some of them down:

  1. Deep breathing exercises

Take some time each day to clear your mind and focus on simply breathing in and out. If finding time to do nothing but breathe during a busy shift is proving to be too challenging, kill two birds with one stone by incorporating breathwork into trips to the bathroom or whilst using the lifts between floors.

Finding yourself getting overwhelmed and can’t control your breath? Panic attacks can cause hyperventilation, so take a deep breath in, hold for a couple of seconds, and exhale for longer than you inhaled. This helps to bring the heart rate down and regulate your breathing. 

You can also use the ‘box breathing’ method if you’re a more visual person. Simply find anything square shaped in the room - a ceiling or floor tile, a piece of paper, a mirror…literally anything! Use your eyes to trace along the first side of the square and breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds as you trace the next side, release for 4 seconds whilst you trace the third side, and relax for 4 seconds on the final side. Repeat as many times as needed.

  1. Mindfulness activities

Mindfulness helps nurses stay present and focused, but being mindful doesn’t have to mean meditation. Mindfulness for nurses can come in many forms, from switching off the TV when you eat, writing your thoughts and feelings down in a journal, speaking and listening to others with intention, and incorporating breath work into your day. Of course, a little meditation doesn’t hurt either! 

  1. Staying active

Time might be precious when you work in healthcare but so is your own health! Prioritise some physical activity to release all those lovely ‘happy hormones’ and keep yourself physically fit for those gruelling shifts. A gentle walk or swim is ideal for the days where you really can’t push yourself too hard.

  1. Talk! 

If you’re struggling to cope with your mental health, tell someone you feel comfortable being open with. Whether it’s a partner, family member, close friend, or mental health professional, releasing those troubling thoughts and discussing how you feel can make a huge difference.

How can A&E Nurses implement work-life balance?

Achieving work-life balance involves setting clear boundaries between work and personal life. This might mean sticking to a regular exercise regime, spending quality time with your family and friends, or spending some time on your favourite hobbies. Remember, you’re only human, so learning to say no to excessive overtime is also really important. 

What are strategies for long-term resilience in nursing?

Building long-term resilience takes time and experience, but there are plenty of things you can do to help you reach higher levels. Making sure you’re up to date with your continuous professional development will ensure your skills are current and you’re better equipped to deal with the situations you’re presented with. Establishing a supportive network among colleagues and participating in peer support groups can also bolster resilience. 

Finally, reminding yourself of your strengths and capabilities on those harder days is hugely important. Difficult shifts and negative patient outcomes can really impact your confidence, which has a knock-on effect on your ability to bounce back and carry on. Remind yourself of all the amazing work you do for your patients, especially when a bad day is getting you down.

What support systems are available for stressed A&E Nurses?

Feeling overwhelmed? Not sure where to turn? Chances are, your hospital offers counselling services, wellness programmes, and support groups specifically designed for healthcare staff. However, if you’re looking to cast a wider net for some much-needed support, online forums and professional nursing organisations can also provide valuable resources and support networks. You can also reach out to dedicated mental health charities like Mind for advice and guidance on managing your mental health concerns or stress levels. 

How to create a relaxing routine after a stressful shift

Creating a relaxing routine after a tiring, stressful shift will go a long way towards bringing those pesky stress levels down. Try some calming activities like taking a warm bath, reading a good book, or listening to some calming music. Some nurses also find solace in journaling or focusing on a creative outlet like painting, cooking, or gardening to decompress after a shift. Whatever it is that helps you feel more at ease after a shift, make sure you prioritise a slot in the day to do it regularly. 

Can peer support help in managing stress among A&E Nurses?

Yes, peer support plays a crucial role in managing your stress. By sharing experiences and coping strategies with colleagues who understand the unique challenges of A&E nursing, you can gain emotional support and practical advice, fostering a sense of community and shared resilience.

Find your next A&E nursing role with Your World

At Your World Nursing, we’re here to support and guide you through the often stressful process of finding a new role. After all, you have enough stress to manage already - let us take this one off your shoulders. Browse our wide range of A&E nursing jobs today or register with us to get priority access to upcoming roles. 

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