Sweaty palms, a rising heart rate, and an overwhelming feeling of pending doom, these were just some of the feelings racing through my veins as I began my new career. I can’t speak for all nursing programs, but I never felt in school like I was actually the nurse in charge. I always had someone watching me, someone that I could blame if I messed up. That net protected me throughout school and during training. I took it for granted that by the time I was done training, taking charge would not be an issue. NOT TRUE!
As it turned out my nerves were waiting for its first opportunity to scare the daylight out of me. I remember my first few shifts alone. I had to hand out the nursing aid assignments, notify the doctors about labs (which I knew nothing about), and deal with the patient’s relatives. This was in addition to all the emergencies that seemed to pop up every minute, getting in the way of the regular routine. I remember thinking, “What a waste of time and money my nursing program was, since I can’t do this!”
Fortunately or unfortunately I’m not alone. Many of my coworkers and friends have confided in me that they too had the same fears and hesitation to start on the trek to becoming a seasoned nurse. The broader question here is how do we deal with a high stress job?
Speaking for myself, I deal with my stress through spirituality. When the road got hard and I felt I couldn’t handle my new set of responsibilities, I turned to G-d for help. That is not to say that I wasn’t religious until then. In fact I’ve always led a very religious life. So what was different about this? The difference between religion and spirituality is that until now I imagined myself in control and G-d my Helper. My achievements were the result of my hard work and my failures were my fault. The turn around for me was when I incorporated G-d into my life. I’ve spoken and continue to speak to Him daily. I ask His help in all my needs, and most importantly, I acknowledge that after I’ve done my due diligence what happens is ultimately up to the Creator.
I also use the 12-step program, which is a spiritual program that was originally designed for Alcoholic Anonymous. AA is a world wide organization of people who seek G-d’s help in breaking free of alcoholism. It has since been expanded to include all addictions from smoking to anxiety.
Another idea is therapy. In therapy you can be taught how to reframe your mindset and focus while in situations that until now left you feeling overwhelmed. Hypnotherapy is designed to release stress and induce relaxation. Other methods include positive affirmations, emotional freedom therapy, and meditation. In addition, there are a number of books out there that deal with the subject of stress and anxiety. One book in particular that I have read and reread is “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”, by Dale Carnegie.
In the end, just knowing that I wasn’t alone and that there are ways of dealing with my jitters has helped me tremendously. That is not to say that when you’re experienced, nervousness just goes out the window. The fact is that challenges are just part of the job. But with the right mind set, some support, and experience, the start of a nursing career can be very manageable.