5 Stress Management Tips for New Nurse

If you’re new to the profession of nursing, you’re probably finding out that sometimes it feels like you’re drowning– it’s almost inevitable. You may feel like Zach Braff has more medical knowledge than you just from memorizing his lines for Scrubs. Fear not! Here are a few tips for new nurses to keep that mountain of stress from building up.

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Plan out your shift

Pretty much everything about our day is stressful. From the moment we clock in, the shit storm starts. I like planning out my day before each shift based on my patient’s medications, tests, neuro/vascular checks, etc. However, when call bells start ringing or you need to travel off-unit with a patient to monitor them during a test, it throws a wrench in your plans!

Flexibility and resiliency can make or break a new nurse and being able to roll with the punches can be the difference between a good or bad day. Be prepared and have a plan, but realize that you’ll likely need to deviate from it. Try showing up for your shift a little early and look up your patients. This will help mentally prepare yourself for the day ahead.

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Make good use of your days off

I found my first few months as a new nurse to be very stressful, and it was mostly because I took on too many responsibilities and wasn’t able to relax on my days off. On top of being a new grad, I just started my DNP-FNP program, and recently commissioned into the Army. If I wasn’t at work, I was trying to forget about work while reading through pages of advanced pathophysiology or writing papers.

The lesson here is to take advantage of the time you have off work. Don’t sign yourself up for too many responsibilities so that when you do get those few days off you can do things you enjoy to relieve stress. Find a hobby, join an adult sports league, or make plans with your friends that you probably haven’t seen much of lately!

Ask for help and accept it when offered

One night shift at 4 AM, a confused patient of mine ripped out his trach. As he lay there sputtering through the hole where his trach was moments before, I freaked out internally (and a little externally). I called out of the door for help as I made sure he was oxygenating adequately and tilted his head back to keep his tracheostomy patent. Another nurse came in to help me while our charge nurse paged respiratory therapy and the on-call resident. After a few attempts, a new cannula was inserted with only a little bleeding, and the patient spent the rest of the shift in wrist restraints and mittens.

There is no way I could have handled this situation on my own and it served as a valuable lesson that I couldn’t do it all on my own. Don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help from other nurses, techs, and the secretaries. These people are your best friends for those 13 hours you spend at work and can make your day a whole lot less stressful. One of the most important parts of time management is the delegation of tasks so you can focus on the number one priority.

Burn off the stress

Exercise is linked to improved mood, increased levels of energy, reduced risk of chronic disease, better memory, better sleep quality… and the list goes on. Whether it’s hitting your local Planet Fitness after your shift, doing yoga in the park on your day off, or going for a hike and getting lost in the woods– find your thing and stick to it. I know this is one of those things we all know and might not do, but it really does help, and you’ll be a lot healthier than if you just go home and binge watch Netflix.

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Talk about it

Talk to someone about the good, the bad, and the ugly of your new job. No, not necessarily a therapist, but find another nurse or. better yet, corner a student nurse and give them your life story. Everyone is stressed even if they don’t admit it and misery loves company. Whenever I talk to other nurses, it’s always so relieving to know they’re experiencing the same anxiety, stress, or burnout.



About Ryan Barnes, BSN, RN, PCCN

Cardiac Surgery RN from Baltimore, DNP student, and Army nurse.

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