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Nurses who have been in the profession for decades are leaving because of overwhelming burnout and stress, and Jacqueline Angelo, a former bedside nurse, is trying to help. By creating a nurses …
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Nurses who have been in the profession for decades are leaving because of overwhelming burnout and stress, and Jacqueline Angelo, a former bedside nurse, is trying to help.
By creating a nurses virtual healing circle, Angelo of Conifer hopes to help nurses feeling overwhelmed. She wants to keep the group small, so participants feel comfortable sharing personal experiences, and Sept. 20’s first meeting had five attendees.
Angelo is a nurse’s coach, working with nurses to build confidence inside and outside of the workplace.
“We don’t have a lot of support,” Angelo said. “Nurses themselves don’t have a lot of support and places to go for support.”
Angelo is not the only local trying to help nurses with the profession’s challenges.
Mary Pat DeWald of Evergreen has been a nurse for more than 20 years, now working full time in hospice care. She is the director of Evergreen Nursing Services, a group that works to teach nurses to care for themselves while caring for others.
“I think what we really have to look at is the moral distress and the moral injury that is taking place with health care providers. We are basically a dime a dozen. I don’t think people realize how spread thin nurses are,” DeWald said. “We’re spread so thin because there aren’t enough nurses on the units, in the hospitals, at the hospices. … It’s been going on for a while, but now it is really, really unbelievable.”
A third resource is Peer Assistance Services, which provides free services for nurses and other health care workers in Colorado experiencing physical, emotional, psychological or substance-use problems. The program’s objective is the public protection and rehabilitation of nurses.
Every time nurses renew their licenses, a portion of their fees go to this program to keep help free for health care workers.
“Clients can come to us in many ways,” said Elizabeth Pace, chief executive officer of Peer Assistance Services.
One attendee at the nurses virtual healing circle, Kristin Mongler, joined the meeting from Mexico, Missouri. She had been a nurse in Missouri for 21 years, spending the past two years in administration. In July, she quit her job due to burnout.
“I was on a hamster wheel,” she explained. “I kept going and going and going. I couldn’t stop.”
Mongler explained that nurses tend to put everyone else first, likening it to the airplane safety reminders that passengers hear: Secure your own oxygen mask first before helping others.
Compassion fatigue is the physical, emotional or psychological impact of helping others. Both Angelo and Mongler see it happening to nurses.
“You can almost feel the stress radiating off them,” Mongler says.
DeWald stresses how important it is for health care professionals to learn tools of self-care to maintain their own health. She said that while this is a systemic problem, it has only been made worse by the pandemic.
As for nurses facing these feelings, DeWald says, “Please reach out and talk with another nurse. Talk, reach out and use your voice. There are those of us who are there to support you and we have ways to support you. And don’t be afraid.”
DeWald explains it simply, and Angelo and others exemplify it through their work: “We can be the change we want to see in health care.”
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