nurse checking notes | anxiety at work

How to Deal with Nurse Anxiety

Anxiety is something every nurse has experienced. Whether it’s your first year of nursing or you’re a seasoned professional, nurse anxiety can creep in and significantly affect your life and your career if it’s not addressed.

Anxiety is defined as “A feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness.” It can often turn into an intense and excessive amount of worry when anxious feelings do not go away, and there becomes an inability to properly cope. 

While nursing is such a rewarding career among health professionals, it can also breed the perfect environment for anxiety to take over. There’s nurse anxiety before work and after work as well as nurses who struggle with a general sense of being anxious all around.

Nevertheless, the most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone, as many nurses have dealt with nurse anxiety and learned to overcome it. We’re going to help you identify what might be causing your nurse anxiety and how to deal with it in order for you to move forward without being held back!

What Causes Nurse Anxiety? 

You might be unsure what exactly causes nurse anxiety because you’re so used to life with it. However, it’s very important to get to the root. 

Ask yourself, Why does nursing give me anxiety? The answer to this question can be different depending on the nurse, different nursing jobs, and your unique situation. Here are some common reasons nurses develop anxiety.

  • A high-stress environment
  • Long shifts
  • Odd hours
  • Disrupted sleep patterns due to irregular shifts and hours
  • A heavy patient load from understaffed facilities
  • Exposure to death and pain
  • The pressure of quick or detrimental decisions regarding patients
  • Lack of routine due to constant changes in healthcare
  • Fear of making mistakes or medical errors
  • The responsibilities of patient’s lives
  • A toxic work environment, harsh coworkers, and nurse bullying
  • Lack of support from co-workers, supervisors, or management
  • Work constraints like lack of equipment or supplies
  • Conflicting job expectations, roles, or demands
  • Difficulty having proper work-life balance

While nurse anxiety is a prevalent issue, it can be overlooked among the nursing profession as a whole, and if left untreated the levels can increase. Therefore, it’s crucial that this topic is not only spoken about more, but also that more nurses are given the tools necessary to combat it.

Effects of Nurse Anxiety

Nurse anxiety can affect both your personal life and your work life. Here are usual ways that nurse anxiety may disrupt your daily living as well as your clinical work.

  • Physical and emotional exhaustion leading to nurse burnout
  • Turnover or leaving the nursing profession altogether
  • Weakened immune system
  • Insomnia
  • Poor time management, productivity, and concentration
  • Inability to make quick and competent decisions 
  • Impaired nursing judgment
  • Restlessness
  • Medical errors or accidents
  • Reduced interpersonal skills among co-workers and patients
  • Quality of patient care suffers

Remember that nurse anxiety doesn’t have to overtake you. You can learn from your experience and it can help to shape you into a better nurse. Don’t let the fear of being too anxious to be a nurse stop you from moving forward!

nurse with anxiety before work

How Do Nurses Cope With Anxiety? 7 Tips to Deal with Nurse Anxiety

Speaking about mental health might be difficult for you because of worry you’ll be deemed unfit or unsuitable for the job. However, the first step toward healing is recognizing that nurse anxiety is a problem and needs to be addressed.

  1. Identify what nurse anxiety looks like for you. Look for signs and symptoms that help you determine whether or not nurse anxiety may be interfering with your life. Determine if you’ve noticed its impact on you and if you need to seek help. Maybe you’ve been calling out of work more than usual or you’re more irritable with your co-workers.
  1. Determine your triggers and make changes where you need to. Is your nurse anxiety stemming from the type of hours you’re working? The stressful unit you’re on? The culture at your facility? Your thoughts and beliefs about yourself as a nurse? Break it down and get into the details of why nurse anxiety is occurring so that you can make a plan to reduce triggers. 
  1. Seek support for nurse anxiety. Don’t try to heal from nurse anxiety on your own. Start talking with co-workers you feel comfortable with and strive for connection. Feeling understood and validated from other nurses who “get it” can help immensely. Find a mentor that can speak into your nursing career and help you find relief or reach out to a professional counselor for guidance.
  1. Arrive to work prepared and reduce stressors. Develop a routine and system that helps you get ready for your shift so you arrive in a good mindset. Maybe it’s focusing on giving yourself enough time to relax before your shift. Arriving ten minutes early to sit in the parking lot and journal your thoughts before heading in. Grabbing all of your supplies and “must-haves” at the beginning of your shift so you’re not wasting unnecessary time. Do what you need to make your shift the least stressful as possible.
  1. Focus on nutrition, hydration, sleep, and exercise. Keeping your nutrition and hydration in check throughout your shift can make a big difference. Eat a nutrient dense diet and bring snacks and meals to work so that you’re not running on fumes. Focus on quality sleep and physical activity that bring you energy. Always advocate for your breaks at work so that you have time to breathe and regroup.
  1. Live your life outside of nursing. A work-life balance is crucial to healing from nurse anxiety, especially because so many nurses find their identity in nursing. When you can separate your life from nursing, it’s easier to leave work at work. Make sure you have fulfilling hobbies that you enjoy, you’re taking vacation days off, and you’re saying “no” to working extra hours if you can’t handle it or you truly don’t want to. 
  1. Have a coping skills toolbox to use. If you’re feeling anxious, have a list of coping skills to turn to when anxiety strikes. If it’s during your shift it could be as simple as taking two minutes in the hallway to stop for a few deep breaths or holding onto a stress ball when you can. It could also be having something to look forward to after your shift such as scheduling a pedicure or a massage to decompress.

Per Diem Nursing Can Help!

Nurse anxiety is a difficult issue to walk through, but with finding resources and taking action yourself, you can learn to manage it. Every nurse experiences this from time to time. Let it be a clue that something needs to change.

Per diem nursing is one of the best roles for nurses with anxiety because you have the ability to work on your OWN terms! nurseIO is an app based technology platform that connects independent contractor nurses to open shifts at local facilities. By using the nurseIO app, you can prioritize work-life balance and lessen your overall anxiety. Connect with nurseIO and sign up today!

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