Accountable Healthcare - COVID-19: How Nurse Managers Can Mitigate Nurse PTSD
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April 24, 2020

COVID-19: How Nurse Managers Can Mitigate Nurse PTSD

As a former hospital manager, I know all too well the effects of trauma and stress on nurses. Can nurses get post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Absolutely.

We, as leaders, know that great leaders understand that actions and supportive behaviors can positively influence staff. These leaders make their way through the muck of disastrous experiences to see the humanness of stress and respond to it.

Right now, we are all experiencing traumatic stress that can lead to PTSD.

In this time, more than ever, our staff needs us to understand that this coronavirus experience has rocked our world. Not only is our staff fearful, enduring equipment shortages and long work hours, they also are experiencing overwhelming stress and worrying about what is occurring in their personal world.

Nurse managers have a lot on their plates right now: disaster command center plans, daily briefings, and long hours dealing with patient flow and throughput, and stressful dealings with staffing plans, sometimes on an hourly basis. All of this work is vital to the operations of units and the hospital. As vitally important is helping staff through this stressful time. 

Here are a few tips to help staff mitigate the stress: 

  • Acknowledge that all nurses are sharing this human experience together; with togetherness, we can create hope
  • Maintain awareness and help staff to keep aware of stress – do not deny and help others to not deny
  • Understand and empower nurses to have control over something. Encourage ways to have nurses support other staff in these stressful times. Refer to "Support Ideas From the Frontline - COVID-19" blog
  • If possible, allow some recovery time from stress; seek help from your staff on how to implement a plan. One unit executed a “walk around the parking lot” break by creating break partners to join them from a safe distance. Nurses are very innovative! 
  • Allow the creativity of the staff to create ideas that will help mitigate daily stress. My suggestion is journaling. Will critical care nurses journal? Maybe. A good starting point would be to give all staff a small notebook to record at least one to three things that went well on their shift. Or use a whiteboard in the breakroom where the staff can share their good thoughts with the shift. 
  • Know that everything you do for your staff, you also need to do for yourself. Put your own oxygen mask on first!

Original Article by: Carol Goodyear PhD, RN, NEA-BC, CCRN-K, FAAN (AACN.ORG)