How to Recharge Compassion in Pediatric Trauma

Most nurses experience some form of traumatic loss at some point in their career. For the pediatric trauma nurse, this can be especially difficult. The loss of a patient, witnessing the outcome of devastating injuries, and the grief of the family take a toll. No two experiences are ever alike and each one can feel like a punch to the gut, even for the most experienced nurse. Pediatric trauma exhausts caregivers on every level.

So how can you maintain a clear head and not become bogged down by the loss and devastation that often permeates throughout pediatric trauma? How can you remain an invaluable member of the team, giving lifesaving care to your pediatric trauma patients, as well as self-care to your mind, body, and soul? Here are 5 ways pediatric trauma nurses have found to cope with the devastations of pediatric trauma. Incorporate these actions regularly and you’ll find you can recharge your compassion.

Get Out and Move

Repeated trauma, as is experienced in pediatric trauma units, can knock you so far down sometimes, you feel as though you can’t move. Avoid the temptation to climb into your bed, assume the fetal position, and pull the covers up over your head. That only compounds the stress and fast-tracks depression.

Get outside if possible, and move. Go for a walk, play with your own children in the park, soak up some vitamin D. Nature is an instant mood-elevator. Even if the weather isn’t quite cooperating, try to bundle up and move outside a bit. Too cold or rainy? Hit the gym. Burn off your stress and increase those endorphins. You’ll feel much better once you get out and move.

Get Your Rest

It’s not always easy for pediatric trauma nurses to sleep. Insomnia, not being able to fall asleep, or waking several times throughout the night, are part and parcel of PTSD. But you need your rest in order to cope with the next shift, and to remain physically and emotionally healthy. What can you do?

Try to practice some self-soothing before bed. Soak in a warm, lavender scented bath, download some podcasts designed to help you sleep, go to bed and get up at the same time every day (even if you have trouble sleeping) so you don’t interrupt your body’s sleep clock, journal and learn to release the stress before you hit the hay. If all else fails, mention your insomnia to your physician. There are gentle sleep inducing meds that may help.

Only Healthy Coping Strategies

That post-shift glass of wine might sound like a good idea. After all, it will help you relax, unknot those stress-tightened muscles, and help you sleep. But one glass can quickly turn into one bottle when you’re dealing with this heavy emotional stress.
Negative coping strategies are a slippery slope. Wether food, alcohol, or drugs, it’s easy to turn this way of coping into a real problem. Look for other, healthier ways to deal with your stress. Take up a hobby such as knitting, or sketching. Find a project to help refocus your attention such as repainting the kitchen or redecorating your bedroom. Read, sip some chamomile tea, or binge on Netflix. These activities might feel frivolous in the face of your trauma, but they can be just as relaxing as other, less-healthy coping strategies.

Feed Your Own Happiness

PTSD is the outcome of something unwanted. Pediatric trauma is fraught with jarring, unpleasant, emotional and chaotic experiences. Your mind keeps wanting to return to these events, over and over gain. This is normal, but for your emotional health you need to redirect your mind to more pleasant activities.

Take a class and learn a new skill such as an instrument, or salsa dancing. Make a date to go see the latest comedy, or go to a comedy club. Enroll in a craft class, or art class. Go on a play date with friends who won’t “talk shop”. Do what you enjoy and surround yourself with positive energy. It works wonders for your psyche.

Talk With Your CoWorkers

You aren’t alone in your stress. Never brush your negative experiences in pediatric trauma aside as simply “part of the job”. It’s likely you aren’t the only nurse in your unit experiencing some form of PTSD.

Don’t struggle alone in your pain. Bring your team together and discuss certain events that cause you the most emotional agony. Instead of hiding your feelings, shine a light on them and share your thoughts with your coworkers.

As a nurse, your primary concern is for your patients. When the care you give becomes emotionally overpowering and exhausting, it’s time to find a way to care for yourself. These 5 self-care practices help you recharge your compassion in pediatric trauma and in many other specialties as well. You can’t take care of others if you’re not “whole’ yourself. Practice self-caregiving always.

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