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  • 17 December 2020
  • 11 min read

How I Cope Working As A Nurse During A Pandemic

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    • Mat Martin
    • Richard Gill
  • 1
  • 3897
Play video: "If you don't learn to switch off, then it's going to take its toll and you will burn out."

Since March, Nurses and health-workers globally have been pushed to their limits. Adult Nurse, Zara, discusses how she has coped working through the pandemic, and gives her advice on reducing burnout.

Topics covered in this article

0.07 Introduction

1.38 Switching Off At Work & At Home

3.58 Hygiene & Infection Control

5.46 Watch Your Caffeine Intake

9.02 Taking Some Time To Reflect

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0.07 Introduction

Hello, everyone, It's Zara here.

For those of you who are new to my channel, I am a Registered Nurse working in the UK and in my spare time I enjoy making YouTube videos.

So today's video, how I cope with working during a global pandemic.

It sounds so strange to even say that in a sentence.

Come 2020, the global pandemic of course took its toll.

At present, I'm working as a Junior Sister in acute and chronic pain specialist services.

From when I qualified to where I am now, there's just big gap of where the global pandemic just went and hit, and it's still ongoing.

I work as a full-time Nurse in the NHS, my coping mechanisms during this time have developed, and I think it would be very helpful for those of you who are Student Nurses, Midwives, or healthcare professionals during this time.

1.38 Switching Off At Work & At Home

I think the most important thing that I try to incorporate in my daily work life routine and coping during this time is switching off at work and switching off at home.

Switching off at work is very different to switching off at home.

If there is one thing that this pandemic has taught me is the importance of self-love and self-care and looking after mental health wellbeing.

Truly it is so, so important and if you don't learn to switch off, then it's going to take its toll and you will burn out.

We don't like burnout, it's not good, it's not good for you, we don't like it, let's try and stop that.

I'm going to explain the difference between switching off at work and switching off at home, but I'm going to particularly focus on switching off at work.

Now, what I mean by switching off at work, it literally means when you are taking your breaks, that means you are taking your breaks.

When you're working those intense long shifts, and especially during a pandemic where you're caring for very ill patient, take your brake and take them properly.

What I like to do when I know I'm going on my break, the number one thing that I do is go off the ward.

I'll take my bag, take my things, and I am gone.

I'm away from the ward because what happens is, you're on the ward, you're on the unit and there'll be someone that comes and asks a question, or you realised that you were meant to do something and then you leave to go and do it and then that's it.

There's no going back once you're back on the ward.

What I like to do is I like to go literally off the ward, off the unit, go and sit outside or if it's cold, go and sit in the cafeteria.

Social distance yourself from your colleagues or from anyone else and you sit by yourself.

But the most important thing is to make sure you're away from the work environment.

Take your break, go away from the wards so you don't get distracted or feel tempted to go back onto the ward.

Now, switching off when you're at home, I we'll be making a separate video on that because I think there's so much more to go into with that.

But just to kind of summarise the most important principles are when you do come home, you need to get work life completely out of the way.

It's always like it doesn't exist and that's so difficult to do, it really does take time.

But I will be making a video on this very soon.

Be sure to keep a lookout for that and I'll go into more details so on.

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3.58 Hygiene & Infection Control

Okay, next point, another really important point about how I cope working during the pandemic is I really place a lot of importance on hygiene.

This is something that pre-COVID was so important anyway.

I was always very cautious when it comes to hand hygiene like hand-washing just general being conscious of where touching surfaces and so on has always been something I'm very cautious about for ever.

Since COVID came along, I have been even more cautious, it's a thing.

It's always better to wash your hands, just wash your hands, find a sink, find some soap, wash your hands.

So yeah hygiene is really, really important.

Though there are a few things that I do that help me as well, I put my mind at ease and made a little ritual for myself. So a few of the things that I do when I come home, I always change my shoes.

My clinical shoes that I wear at work that does not come home and the shoes that I actually do bring home are clean.

Those shoes I don't work in they're literally just from traveling from work to home and I keep my shoes separate from all of my other family member's shoes.

I also have a specific work jacket which I just wear to work and only to work and I also keep that separate.

Then as soon as I enter the house, I'm straight away going for a shower, changing to clean clothes, I keep the clothes that I've come to home with separate as well and look good as well knowing that those steps have been taken and trying to minimize the risk to the best of my ability for everyone that I live with at home.

So those are just what I do, my hygiene/infection control point of view and that just helps me, keeps my mind at ease.

5.46 Watch Your Caffeine Intake

My third point, my penultimate point, I am really cautious on my caffeine intake.

Fatigue is something that has really impacted me during this time.

To put it into context, there were some shifts that I worked, from March up until this point, where I look back and actually think, I don't know how I did it, I don't know how I worked those shifts because it was so tiring.

So stressful, particularly when I worked in ICU.

Some of those night shifts would just probably one of the worst shifts I've ever done to put it gently.

It was so tiring, and I felt that really took an impact on my physical health.

The only thing that would help me was drinking lots of caffeine.

Now healthcare professionals are terrible at how much coffee and caffeine we drink.

What they've done at our hospital is they've allowed free coffee and tea for staff.

So that's it, we went wild.

We're like, great, we can just have so much more caffeine because it's free.

Who doesn't like free stuff?

What that did mean was I was drinking a lot more than I needed to and in a very unhealthy way.

I was drinking probably about four cups a day.

It's the Asian within me.

I am there see, so tea is like our water.

It could be that, but I was relying on caffeine quite a lot to get me through the shifts.

When you think about how much sugar is going in your tea or in your coffee, and then you're having that pretty much on a daily basis, it's just not good for you.

What was also starting to happen was when I wasn't taking it, I was getting headaches and I felt like I needed to take it to get rid of the headache.

It was becoming a very vicious cycle and I just didn't feel good.

So what I started to do was I started to slowly cut back.

Cut back on the amount of sugar I was putting into my tea because I think I was having too much sugar.

I wouldn't even say how much sugar I was having, but it was a lot, it is not good.

I cut back on the amount of sugar that I was putting into my caffeine and then I slowly started to reduce the amount of tea I was having.

I tried to replace the caffeine with other means, I was having homemade juices, more water, I was making sure that in my packed lunches I was putting vegetables, foods that are really good sources of energy, so I was eating slow release carbohydrates as well.

Then I found myself making that positive change where the headaches started to disappear and I wasn't relying on something to basically get me through a shift.

That's not how I want to be, that's not a very healthy way of working either.

I think that's something that during this time has taught me that we pick up these bad habits that are just short-term fixes.

So just be really conscious about how much caffeine you're taking.

I'm not going to say I'm going to stop, I quite like tea, I quite like iced coffee.

I don't mind it, but just to be conscious about how much you're taking and then trying to build those really good habits and positive changes to your diet and so on.

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9.02 Taking Some Time To Reflect

My final point, reflection.

This is so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so important, essential, you need it.

It's such an important life skill I think and if anything nursing has taught me is the importance of it.

There were moments when I'd come home from a shift and feel defeated.

That's a strong word, but I would feel defeated, I feel like I don't feel good enough.

That's a lot of negative energy, and a part of reflection is being able to look back and find the positive thing, find things that you can learn from and then apply that for your future practice.

That's only going to make you a better Nurse, a better healthcare professional because if you continue to come home and you have this negative energy, you're not going to enjoy what you're doing.

You're going to lose that love that you have for your work and it will only impact your patients, which we don't want to do.

Reflecting is so key.

If you're not doing that already, you have to think about how you can start incorporating reflection into your work.

Get a reflective journal, keep it at your bedside, write your thoughts down, make sure you put the date as well so then you can look back at that time and think, oh my God, that was me and now look at where I am.

Or if you prefer to do it electronically, put it on your phone.

If you're coming back from work and you're on the train or you're in the bus, write in your note.

What I like to do is I do actually like to physically write it down.

I just liked doing that, it really does not matter.

Reflect, write it down, and look back on that one day and just see how far you've come.

So that is all from me.

I really hope that with the different points that I've made, it will in some way help you guys.

If you're a Student Nurse and you're on placement right now, or if you're working as a healthcare professional out there on the frontline keep up the amazing work, I'm proud of you.

It's not easy, but then again, our love for what we do is why we keep on doing it.

But definitely look after yourself during this time.

Be safe guys and take care.

Let me know in the comments if you were working throughout the Pandemic and any tips you picked up along the way - let's chat there!

Oh, and please Like this article to let me know you enjoyed it - thank you!

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About the author

My name is Zara and I am a NHS Registered Nurse. I am a Surgical Nurse by background and was recently redeployed to an Intensive Care Unit to care for Covid-19 patients. I am now a trained mentor and actually supervising Student Nurses going into practice.

    • Mat Martin
    • Richard Gill
  • 1
  • 3897

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    • Rehaz Salih 2 years ago
      Rehaz Salih
    • Rehaz Salih
      2 years ago

      Thanks Zara for your post, really it discribe what nursing are feeling during pandamic due to very hardwork, no regular ... read more