The desire to help and care for others ranks high among the characteristics of all doctors and nurses. Caregiving as a profession is satisfying, meaningful and often very rewarding. But when doctors and nurses fail to balance the care they provide to others with the care they provide to themselves, stress, burnout and secondary traumatic stress can result. While the signs of burnout can vary for each person, one common sign is feeling more irritable or short tempered with others.
Feelings of irritability strain relationships, creating stressful situations both at home and in the workplace. Beyond creating a more stressful workplace, research, published in Pediatrics, has shown irritability, and any resulting negative remarks, actually impact patient care and safety:
"Doctors and nurses performed worse on a medical exercise when peppered with rude statements. They were less likely to make crucial diagnoses and performed some key tasks poorly."
What can doctors and nurses do if they find themselves feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and more irritable? Practicing trauma informed care provides a framework in which practicing self care plays a central role. First recognizing irritability and other signs as warning flags for burnout and secondary traumatic stress is key. Next, doctors and nurses need to take the necessary steps to incorporate self care practices into each day. If these feelings continue, doctors and nurses should seek out additional help from a mental health professional.