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Transitioning from a nursing student to an RN can be stressful. How can I help new RNs identify, cope, and overcome stress?

Stress is the number one health problem in America, and job stress is the major culprit. Nursing can be a stressful profession, especially depending on where you work and how you handle stress in your daily life. It is important to remind new RNs to focus on what they can control and how there are many things they can do to improve their environment. When new RNs learn how to manage stress, it allows them to experience life from a more positive perspective.

By identifying where the stress originates from, new RNs will be able to better control the pressures surrounding them. The four most common types of stress are:

  • Personal: Comes from your personal life and includes your own perception of yourself and relationships.
  • Physiological: Results from various kinds of stress and how your body responds to the stress.
  • Social: Related to your perceived appearance in the world.
  • Environment: Largely unavoidable stress caused by the nature of the world around us.

Encourage new RNs to keep a log of their daily events with the date and time of the activities and any key words to point out how they felt. Ask them if they can pinpoint the event that caused them to become stressed. Also, be sure to tell them to include those things that made them feel good during the day.

Another tip to help new RNs deal with stress is to have them restructure their priorities. This will help them shift their balance from stress-producing to stress-reducing activities. One can never completely eliminate stress from one’s life, but you can control and reduce it by striking a balance between work and fun.

-- Patricia A. Duclos-Miller, MS, RN, CNA, BC

(December 2009)