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First Responders First - Stressors for nurses when working with clients



There are a number of stressors that affect nurses every day while providing care to clients. Constant exposure to these stressors, or constantly feeling stressed can negatively affect a nurse’s mental health.

Some of the most common causes of stress for nurses are related to nurses having insufficient time. Nurses are often overloaded with too many tasks during their shift, managing several tasks at once, and unable to give the proper attention needed for each task. When a nurse is focusing on a task such as writing progress notes or performing a clinical procedure, they are frequently interrupted with questions or are asked to reprioritize their tasks. Nurses also feel they don’t have enough time or emotional energy to give proper emotional support to clients or their families when they need it most. There’s always a clock ticking, and nurses know that every moment they spend documenting progress notes, or getting tasks done before the end of their shift means less time with clients.

In addition to feeling stressed by not having enough time, nurses face a number of stressors caused by the health care and nursing environment. As a client’s needs change, a nurse may need to call for another health provider, such as a physician, medical imaging technician, or respiratory therapist. Health care providers are usually busy with a number of responsibilities, and sometimes it can be hard for the nurse to get a hold of the teammate they need, adding high stress especially if communicating an urgent or time-sensitive situation. 

Other situations that can add stress to a nurse include: nurses completing tasks outside their comfort zone or outside their scope of practice, witnessing the death of a client, consoling the family of a recently diagnosed or deceased client, and working with violent clients.

  1. "Sustaining Yourself During the Coronavirus Crisis"  ()
  2. "A new contribution to the classification of stressors affecting nursing professionals" Revista Latino-Americana de Enfermagem (2017)