Nurse managers have a difficult job and handle stressful, challenging situations on a daily basis. Physicians, staff, and other departments seek out managers for advice and problem solving. If there is a problem, the “buck” stops with them. In my experiences, most nurse managers do not think about their own needs. They are focused on their staff and patients and how to provide the best to all of them.
Handling stress is an important skill. It takes an awareness of what stresses us and how we respond to it. It is much easier to do the responsible thing when things are going well, and we are not under stress. However, as stress increases and emotions rise, the ability to remain composed and behave appropriately becomes more difficult.
Stress is neither good nor bad. It’s the body’s reaction to the demands of life. Not coping with high levels of stress can cause physical and psychological problems. If managers feel they have control in their life, they are better able to handle what comes their way. They can present their best selves.
Although major life events such as the loss of a loved one, promotion, relocation, buying a new house, or the birth of a child can cause stress; research shows the cumulative effect of common daily hassles is a much better predictor of a high-stress level. It is important to pay attention to signs that you are reaching your stress limits.
It is also important to have a variety of options to deal with the stressors of work. Some of these coping strategies can be having social support, spiritual beliefs, healthy eating, exercise, or relaxation and meditation.
Time, or the lack of it, can be the greatest source of stress for managers. On average it has been said that most managers do not work more than twenty minutes without an interruption. Most of a manager’s time is controlled by others on “urgent” matters. Meetings, crises, and customer complaints dominate the manager’s life and are controlled by someone else, which require a reaction but may or may not lead to wanted results. Wouldn’t it be nice if the manager could spend time on planning and innovating to prevent problems? Dealing with this through time management can help.
Time management rules look at spending time on important matters and not just urgent ones. Managing one’s time requires a nurse manager to think about what is important to their role and what is going to make the unit/department function at its highest level. Asking, is this the best use of my time? Individuals spend time on important matters not just urgent matters.
Using time efficiently is also important. The list includes being organized, setting deadlines, not procrastinating and reserving time when others do not have access to you, just to name a few. Realizing you cannot do everything yourself and delegate also helps.
Delegation is difficult for many managers. Not that they do not know how to delegate, but they are reluctant to do it. Your boss has given you big responsibilities, tight deadlines and a lot of pressure to produce results. The natural response is to just do it yourself, thinking “that is what got me promoted in the first place.” Reluctance also stems from not wanting to overburden staff.
Delegation is a statement of trust that the individual has the ability to do what is asked. It is not dumping. Signs you need to delegate are:
- working excessively long hours
- you hesitate/dread taking on new responsibilities or opportunities
- staff members are not engaged
- and you answer on behalf of the staff.
Managers need to remember their role is not to do everything but to ensure the department runs smoothly, and patient care is optimum.
Managing stress is a balancing act. If you feel unbalanced, consider options of coping strategies, better time management including delegating. Take time to recharge your batteries and you will be a much better manager.
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