This post is from my archives.
For National Nurse Appreciation Week!
A major survey by Nursing Times found that eight out of 10 nurses feel they are under more pressure at work than they were 12 months ago, with seven out of 10 suffering the side-effects of work-related stress resulting in physical or mental health problems. More than eight out of 10 nurses say their team is short-staffed at least once a week; only 18 percent of nurses work their usual or allotted hours. Nearly 20 percent work an extra six to 10 extra hours a week.
In a recent blog, Dr. Sanjay Gupta writes: “Work schedules and insufficient staffing are among the factors driving many nurses to leave the profession. American nurses often put in 12-hour shifts over the course of a three-day week. Research found nurses who worked shifts longer than eight to nine hours were two-and-a-half times more likely to experience burnout.” He mentions a new study that suggests that nurses’ burnout risk may be related to what initially attracted them to the profession in the first place. Researchers at the University of Akron in Ohio surveyed more than 700 nurses and found that the RNs who are motivated more by the desire to help others, rather than by enjoyment of the work, were more likely to burn out.
These statistics sadden me.
I am one of those chronically ill types who spend, or at least used to spend, a fair chunk of my time with nurses: at the blood lab, in a variety of different doctors’ offices, in hospital inpatient and outpatient psychiatric units. So many of my nurses have been true angels to me, able to reassure me in a way that physicians rarely do.
I’ll always remember the nurse Theresa who admitted me into Laurel Regional Hospital ten years ago. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. I had been under the care of reckless psychiatrist who was getting some nice kickbacks from a large pharmaceutical company for prescribing the same atypical antipsychotic to everyone, no matter what the diagnosis was. (I know this because I met up with some of his former patients—we formed a support group of sorts, folks who have survived!)
For weeks I had been debating on whether or not to go to the hospital—I clearly wasn’t getting better–but like everyone who is severely depressed, I didn’t know when the right moment was. A nurse friend of mine knocked on my door, and when she saw my bran flakes all over my robe (holding a spoon was problematic), she demanded that I be hospitalized … before I swallowed the bag of pills I was stashing in the kitchen cupboard.
Theresa at Laurel Hospital asked me the typical questions—how long I had been depressed (a year), if I was grieving the death of anyone (no), whether or not I had a suicidal plan (yes)–but she asked them with a disarming compassion that helped mitigate my shame. I didn’t feel as pathetic as a suicidal woman with cereal all over herself would. And here’s how I know she was some kind of messenger sent from God. For months I had been holding in my hand as my security blanket a medal of St. Therese, whom I had been praying to with all my might.
“I’m named after the Little Flower (St. Therese), too,” she said to me so sweetly at the end of all the questions.
“Now let’s go upstairs,” she said, “and get you well.”
I started crying.
She gave me the ounce of hope that I needed to get through the inpatient program, and then the outpatient program, and then a whole lot of other programs.
In 1990, May 6 – 12 was designated as National Nurses Week. During this week two years ago, the idea of making it easy to thank a nurse turned into a website, www.dohje.com, and it’s gaining momentum. Even if you don’t remember your nurse’s name or the specifics, DohJe does its best to get your gratitude note delivered.
So, in the spirit of National Nurses Week, I tried to get in touch with Theresa today (on DohJe) and tell her that I am doing much better. I wanted to relay to her that I now devote my life to helping others who were as desperate and scared as I was, and that the Little Flower is right there alongside me.
Join the conversation on ProjectBeyondBlue.com, the new depression community.
Published originally on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.