Nursing in Victoria right now is hard. Really hard. We not only have the governments curfew rules and social distancing measures to contend with but we also have the constant need to donn and doff PPE appropriately to keep the community safe. And I don’t know about you, but I’m tired!
These feelings of being worn out, exhausted and “over it” is totally okay. Normal in fact. But we need to keep tabs on these very real emotions and know when it’s time for a break. Though we feel stretched, we need to embrace the small moments to attend to our own health and wellbeing. Though it may feel unnatural to put yourself first, this pandemic is pushing us further than we have been before and we need to do things differently - take some time for number 1!
Nursing burnout is a scary and real phenomenon that can sneak up on you. Feelings of disinterest, frustration and lack of motivation towards your nursing job particularly during this pandemic can be unsettling but they don’t have to be permanent.
If you’re feeling flat and emotionally exhausted it’s important you talk to somebody. This could be the supportive team at VNS, your partner or work colleague. Put your emotions into words to explain how you are feeling so steps and processes can be put in place to minimise this from manifesting. You may be able to complete other nursing opportunities in non clinical roles or pursue nursing tasks you didn’t know were otherwise available.
Decreasing your working hours and minimising exposure to the workplace which is causing you stress may be an option for some, while for others it could have the opposite effect. Stopping or decreasing your workload may have financial negative implications which cause more stress and therefore need to be explored before any big decision is made.
In order to further prevent burnout, goal setting may be of benefit. Discuss and even write down what you’d like to achieve in the short and long term. This could be anything from having a zoom date with a friend, meal prepping for the week or even completing exercise 4 days in a row. Having a goal in mind can keep you focused and can stop you feeling like you’re in a rut.
Are you getting a little sick of wearing a mask? What about the face shield and gown? Having to constantly think about PPE can feel monotonous. At this point it may be helpful to think about which part of the PPE process is annoying you. Are your prescription glasses fogging up? Is the gown too small? Are you getting confused on how to correctly doff? Unbeknown to you there may be different sized gowns available, anti fog masks and even instructional videos you can watch to make you feel more comfortable.
Though the use of PPE is not going away in a hurry there may be some aspects of the PPE process you can adapt to help ease the stress and frustration, such as wearing a face shield instead of goggles.
If your PPE fatigue is really getting you down, talk to your VNS team. There may be different areas/wards/departments you could work which are low risk COVID and therefore less PPE is required. Don’t suffer in silence.
Though we are somewhat limited in Victoria as to who we can see and when, we as nurses get to spend significantly more time with other humans than say somebody working from home who lives alone. This is the part of nursing I am incredibly thankful for and never thought I would actually say out loud.
Though we would prefer to be enjoying brunch at our local cafe, we should be embracing tea room conversations with different people, trying not to focus too much on what we are missing out on.
From a social standpoint, us Victorians are forced to look outside what is deemed normal in order to interact and engage purposefully with others. Here are some fun ways to still be social around your nursing shifts:
Regular zoom chats with friends and family where you can change the background pretending you are somewhere other than your home!
Exercise daily with a friend
Engage in a cooking challenge with friends. Sour dough seems to be the rage at the moment!
Join a book club. Don’t rule out audiobooks if you can’t be bothered actually reading the words.
Swap puzzles with friends
Try your hand at macrame
Build a veggie garden getting advice from others on Facebook groups and through friends.
Take a time out from the news and social media
Though being aware of the trending numbers and statistics can help you stay up to date with what’s happening, sometimes it helps to skip the headlines for a day or two. Give yourself a break from knowing the Covid toll and who broke what rule leading to further lockdown. I’m not saying to dig your head in the sand but I am saying it’s okay to have a day off from time to time away from your screen, immersing yourself in something else more positive.
Agency nurses can maintain their holistic health and wellbeing during the COVID pandemic by really taking the time to consider their own needs. Though it may seem foreign putting steps in place to remain social and putting yourself first, one's own needs are imperative inorder to provide care to someone at a level they come to expect.
Co-founder The Other Shift