Handling Stress as a Nurse Anesthesia Student
One of the first questions you may very well be asked during your CRNA School Interview is “How do you handle stress, and what is your outlet for managing your stress?” There is great reason for this. The practice of anesthesia is a highly stressful nursing specialty. As a Student nurse anesthetist you must transition from your known professional practice as a registered nurse, who cares for patients under a physician’s direction, to an advanced nurse practitioner who must make life and death decisions. As a Student of nurse anesthesia you must learn to work with a great deal of autonomy and must refine your decision-making ability, logical reasoning, and ability to reach a conclusion on what to do under what may be life or death circumstances.
Janet Dewan, MS, CRNA, chair of the Health and Wellness Program at the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), also an organizational affiliate of ANA, said this “Our training is very stressful. As a nurse anesthetist, you’re responsible for every breath and heart beat. So students are very scared at the beginning of their program in particular, because they realize the impact they can have on their patients.”
Because of the stressful nature of the job, the best CRNA Schools incorporate extensive training on the importance of self-care and managing stress beginning early on in their studies. Between class time, studying, didactics, clinicals, and managing any sort of outside life in general (family, social life, etc.) learning to manage stress will be downright CRUCIAL to your well being.
Here are Six Stress Management Tips for CRNA Students: Focus On Good Self-Care
1 – Physical Exercise.
To be an exceptional Nurse Anesthetist/Nurse Anesthesia Student you must take care of yourself. Being physically active, not only keeps your body in good physical condition, it also improves your brain function and lowers stress levels.
2 – Proper Nutrition.
Eating foods that give your body the proper nutrients that it needs is also essential to keep one alert and fit for the rigorous educational program and job thereafter. As you well know, your diet has a major impact on your physical and mental abilities. Also, you should avoid the use of smoking, alcohol, drugs, and any addictive habit forming substances. Some mistakenly think that these will relieve your stress, when really, they increase it, and will cause you to lack the proper form and ability to function that is required in a position with so much responsibility. Besides, no patient wants to be reliant on a Nurse Anesthetist who is functioning at less than their full capacity due to being impaired by substances. Eat clean, think clean.
3 – Get Adequate Sleep.
With Nurse Anesthesia school, clinicals, class time, studying, family time, house cleaning, social time, exercising and eating, all to work in, it can be easy to get very little shut-eye. When students don’t get enough sleep, their stress levels rise. And with that stress, so does the cortisol levels in the body, making them more susceptible to illness. You don’t want to be sick. Be well rested and able to think clearly and quickly.
4 – Use Good Pre-Test-taking Skills/Positive Imagery.
It is important to manage your anxiety especially around tests and the performance of clinical procedures, which often have many steps that can trip you up if you are stressed-out. Do not let test-taking anxiety get the better of you. Practice in depth-relaxation techniques just before entering a patient room or a test setting. These can include mindful breathing and guided imagery. Allow yourself to visualize yourself relaxed and successfully performing a procedure.
5 – Open communication.
This is imperative to managing your stress level as a Nurse Anesthesia Student. Do NOT just struggle. Do NOT be afraid to ask questions. It is better to ask your professors to show you a procedure again to help clear things up for you. Open lines of communication address concerns more readily. Some students are afraid to ask questions for one reason or another. Some fear they will be labeled a “troublemaker”, or viewed as incompetent if they ask questions or ask for assistance. It is better to communicate with your co-workers/fellow students in order to prevent an incident from happening, if possible. It is also less likely that you will be labeled as a ‘troublemaker’ if you deal with issues before rather than after-the-fact. When someone’s life is in your hands, open communication is imperative in making sure they are in good ones.
6 – Meditation/ BREATHE.
Meditation is a powerful antidote to stress. In the inner quiet of meditation, the body decreases its production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, and increases neurotransmitters associated with calm and well-being, including dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. Taking time for some meditation daily is ideal. Also, deep breathing can help you shift out of stress response and into the relaxation response within seconds. Practice deep breathing for 3 to 5 minutes, twice daily, and any time during the day when you become aware of feeling stressed.
In order to take care of others effectively, you have to take care of yourself first. Just as the flight attendants are instructed on a flight, “You must put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” As a CRNA Student you must focus on your own health and managing your stress in order to be the best help and advocate for your patients.
John Keith | CRNA Career Pro
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