10 Ways Working as a Nurse Affects your Mental and Physical Health

Written By Alla Levin
February 03, 2022

10 Ways Working as a Nurse Affects your Mental and Physical Health

You may think that the mind and body are separate entities but, they are interconnected and affect each other. That’s why mental health can influence your physical health and vice versa. Nursing is a rewarding profession, but some factors can negatively affect nurses’ mental and physical health.

Occupational stress associated with the nursing profession is an important issue, and many nurses suffer from mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.

Long work hours and night shifts can be detrimental to physical health resulting in health issues like heart diseases, sleep-related problems, and more. However, nurses have the responsibility to look after themselves alongside their patients. They should value their mental and physical health to stay healthy. They should serve as a role model to their patients by adopting healthy habits.

Nurse educators are empowered with the knowledge and skills to educate and train the next generation of nurses. They should educate their students about the importance of self-care as they can only nurture others by nurturing themselves first. Nurse educators graduating with an MSN in Nursing Education program are trained to identify the factors that can influence the performance of nurses and help find ways to eliminate those factors.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle while working as a nurse is not as easy as it sounds. Working as a nurse is rewarding but, it can be mentally and physically exhausting. In this article, we are going to discuss some ways working as a nurse can affect your mental and physical health.

Factors Affecting the Mental Health of NursesFactors Affecting the Mental Health of Nurses

Nursing is a fast-paced profession that requires considerable energy and focuses on optimally fulfilling responsibilities. Various factors in this profession can lead to mental breakdowns resulting in medication errors, delays in patient care, and lapse in judgment. Some factors affecting the mental health of nurses include;

Failing to Achieve Work/Life Balance

Nurses have varying work hours and shifts, making it difficult for them to maintain a routine and achieve work/life balance. It can lead to burnout or make them feel overwhelmed with their job affecting their productivity and performance. Moreover, poor work/life balance restricts them from forming healthy relationships with their friends and family, raising anxiety levels and leading to depression.

Toxic Workplace Environment

In any healthcare setting, nurses work and deal with many people daily. Bullying and lateral violence are common in the nursing community. Abusive patients and judgmental colleagues can create a toxic workplace environment for nurses. This mental torture can lead to many mental disorders. Receiving destructive criticism from their superiors can damage their confidence, and they begin to doubt their abilities, leading to imposter syndrome.

Working in High-Stress Situations

Nursing is a stressful profession. Work overload, needle stick injuries, staffing shortage, dealing with medical emergencies, and more can take a toll on the mental health of nurses. Such high-stress situations can increase the risk of anxiety, depression, burnout, and substance abuse disorders.

Stressed nurses are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, damaging their physical health. This is why employees must make use of resources to help them with managing the mental health of their employees. 

Fear of not Providing Optimal Care to PatientsFactors Affecting the Physical Health of Nurses

Even veteran nurses can doubt themselves while providing care to a specific patient. Nurses deal with unique new medical cases daily, and their care can mean life or death for their patients. Some nurses are afraid of making mistakes, and they don’t leave that fear behind even after their shift is over. This stress becomes part of their life and leaves them more susceptible to anxiety disorders.

Lacking a Support Network

The lack of a personal or professional support network in nursing can be detrimental to mental health. Unresponsive superiors at the workplace and the inability to develop deep bonds with family and friends because of job stress can make nurses feel alone and misunderstood. Loneliness and social isolation can result in anxiety, depression, early cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.

Factors Affecting the Physical Health of Nurses

Nursing is a profession that requires you to be physically fit to provide excellent care to your patients. However, some factors in this profession can negatively affect your physical health. Some of these factors include;

Increased Use of Harmful Stimulants

Nursing is a stressful profession, and nurses are responsible for the well-being of their patients. Sometimes, stress can lead nurses to use harmful stimulants like alcohol and cigarettes. Moreover, night shift nurses may depend on caffeine to stay alert during their shift. However, unregulated use of any inspiration can lead to severe physical problems like reduced appetite, increased heart rate, sleeplessness, and more.

Lack of Exercise

Irregular shift timings leave nurses with little or no time for themselves. Juggling jobs and other life responsibilities often result in them neglecting physical activity. A lack of exercise can lead to heart diseases, obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and more.

Sleep Deprivation

Mental strains of working as a nurse and unhealthy stimulants can affect sleep quality. Moreover, a lack of a proper routine can also disturb the sleep schedule of nurse practitioners. Lack of sleep can be detrimental to physical health as it can cause diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, and even stroke.

Poor Nutrition10 Ways Working as a Nurse Affects your Mental and Physical Health

Shift work is typical in nursing, and it is associated with poor nutritional intake and increased BMI. Diet has a significant impact on overall health. Long work hours and little time to fulfill other life commitments can lead some nurses to neglect their diet. Poor diet leaves them prone to chronic diseases like cancer, osteoporosis, dental issues, cardiovascular issues, and more.

Work Load

A high nurse-patient ratio can increase the workload for nurses. Healthcare settings often overwork them while offering little to no support. Overwork can deteriorate the mental health of nurses, which ultimately affects their physical health resulting in heart diseases, diabetes, and strokes.

The Wrap Up

Nursing is a rewarding but challenging profession. Nurses deal with various factors daily that impact their mental and physical health. Metal and physical health are connected and affect each other.

Similarly, directly and indirectly, all the factors discussed in this article affect nurses’ mental and physical health. Poor work/ life balance, toxic work environment, stress, lack of support, and fear of not providing patients with optimal care affect the mental health of nurses. Whereas increased workload, regular use of harmful stimulants, lack of sleep, exercise, and nutrition can impact the physical health of nurses.

Hopefully, this article will help you understand the struggles of nurses. Healthcare organizations should take proper measures to ensure their nurses’ mental and physical health to ensure the delivery of optimal healthcare.

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