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Are Nurses Being Worked To Death

Are Nurses being worked to death? According to Lynda Lampert as posted on November 19th, 2013, Yes!!!

5 Signs you’re being worked to death

Posted on November 19, 2013 by in Nurse Stories

death-ambulanceWe all have those days where we feel like our job is killing us, but is it possible for nurses to work themselves to death?

A man in Ohio is alleging his wife died in a car accident due to the fatigue and stress she had from her nursing job.

Shifts without breaks, getting called in for extra shifts, and working over sixteen hours, the husband feels, led to her fatigue and eventually her car accident.

If you feel like you’re on the edge, you may be at risk for being worked to death.  Here are five signs to look for.

1. You dread going to work

Dread is a feeling of hatred, of an unwillingness to face what you’re going to encounter on your shift.  Dread, essentially, is fear, and it can cause untold feelings of stress, unease, and depression.

“When you can’t rest, you lose effectiveness.”

If your job causes dread, you may suffer from sleeplessness, irritability, or anxiety.

With severe dread, you may enter a suicidal depression.

It isn’t that far a stretch, especially if you feel trapped and overworked by your job.  Your mental health could suffer when you dread going to work, and this could lead to serious health problems.

2. You are exhausted

Every nurse feels fatigue.  Part of the job is working hard, feeling tired, and making a difference. Exhaustion is something different.  It makes you feel like your tank is totally depleted and like you have nothing else left to give.

When operating heavy machinery or taking responsibility for the lives of patients, utter exhaustion can cause errors.  Sometimes, these errors can end in tragedy for you or your patients.

3. You can’t rest

Rest is vital to every nurse’s well-being, and not just sleep.  When you are being worked to death, you try to rest, but you simply can’t.

You toss.  You turn.  You can’t seem to turn your mind off, and this can lead to dangerous situations when you’re driving or caring for patients.  When you can’t rest, you lose effectiveness.

4. You don’t have fun

Closely related to being unable to rest is not being able to have fun.  Again, this is a problem of disconnecting from the stress and allowing your mind a chance to rest.

If your life is nothing but work, attempts to sleep, and getting the kids from point A to point B, you’re going to suffer serious health problems.  Stress is known to bring on heart disease, diabetes, and other problems that could impact your life.

The point is to try to find a way that you can have fun again by participating in hobbies.  If your life is too busy and you are just too stressed, you may need to make some changes because you are at risk for working yourself to death.

5. You feel dangerous

Just about every nurse has had a time in their career when they felt like things were dangerous.  Either staffing was insane, the patients high in acuity, or you were more tired than you should be, and you knew that you were banking on the angels for that shift.

If you feel dangerous – either physically or professionally – this is a sign that your job may be working you too hard.  Understaffing happens, but if management doesn’t take steps to keep it from becoming a chronic thing, you could end up with serious safety issues.

Whether a job like nursing can actually work you to death is up for debate, but I know several nurses – myself included – who felt like they were worked far more than they could tolerate.  When people are pushed to their limits repeatedly, is working to death really that far a stretch?


What Do I Think?

This is a great article by Lynda Lampert and although it isn’t an exclusive argument for just nurses it is for sure a common concern for a lot of nurses, especially those who work with direct patient care. I have personally worked with direct patient care since October 1996 and can relate to every point she makes in this article.

1. We have all dreaded going back to work after a bad shift. I don’t know any of my fellow nurses that at one point in their career dreaded going to work and wanted to change either their job or their profession.

2. Working 12 hour shifts, 16’s, nights, days, evenings. Yes, we are exhausted and we suffer and our families do too!

3. Just working night shifts is proven to be unhealthy. It’s scary. We make on average about $2-3  more per hour to work night shifts. Is that worth the increase chance of obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes or gastrointestinal disease?

4. It truly is difficult to have fun working shift work. Most of society works their 9-5 jobs while the rest of us work crazy hours and miss out on dinners, parties, kids sports and activities.

5. There are a lot of jobs out there that you can definitely do while tired or even exhausted, but in nursing when you are working off shifts with long hours, missed breaks, and a lot of overtime a mistake can literally mean a life.

I totally agree that nurses are being worked to death. It’s slow, but its happening. Is there a way to change it? Is there a easy fix? This profession is always going to be a stressful one to choose. The look on a patients face when you truly connect and help them is priceless, but at what cost to us?

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