Transforming Nurses' Stress and Anger: Steps toward Healing

By Sandra P. Thomas | Go to book overview

11

Solving Problems

We are all faced with a series of great opportunities—brilliantly dis-
guised as unsolvable problems.

—John Gardner

There is an old saying about the three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who don’t know what’s happening. This chapter is for those of you who want to make things happen, to solve the problems that interfere with your ability to practice your profession in the way that you want. Although much of our research data focused on unhealthy anger, some nurses used their anger productively. For example, Linda Harvey, a med-surg nurse, was able to advocate for herself when she alone was charged with a medication error for which at least one other person should have been held responsible. She explained to the director of nursing that although she was in error when she administered potassium to a patient who’d been taken off the supplement, the outgoing nurse hadn’t flagged the change in orders in the Kardex or the chart—and she’d forgotten to tell Linda about it at shift report. The hospital’s medication error report form was subsequently revised to accommodate shared responsibility. And hospital policy was modified to put more red flags into effect when changes were made to a patient’s medication regimen. Because of Linda’s actions, nurses who make a medication error at that hospital now experience a less punitive aftermath.

Let’s look at some of the other problems that nurses told us about and what can be done to solve them. Stressful, emotionally upsetting events come with the territory in nursing. But research shows that problem-focused coping is significantly correlated with a reduction in psychological stress symptoms (Hedin, 1994). As Pat Schroeder puts it, “You can’t roll up your sleeves and wring your hands at the same time.”

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