Clinician Stress Management in Emergency Departments

By Christine Walker, RN

Methodist Dallas Medical Center

Although clinicians may find their careers rewarding, they often find them stressful. In an emergency department (ED), for instance, stressful situations can change in a moment’s notice. Clinicians may be dealing with high acuity emergency situations where there’s little time to prepare families for the seriousness of an injury, followed by minor emergency treatments. In short, it’s a roller coaster of emotions. ICU nurses, on the other hand, may work with highly emotive family situations for days or weeks, causing their stress levels to be high for an extended period of time.

What’s more, other factors are contributing to stress levels, including:

  1. Increasing security and workplace violence. At Methodist Health System, for instance, safety precautions include badge access units to identify staff and vendors authorized to access restricted areas.
  2. Health care reform. Will EDs have enough resources once everyone has medical insurance?
  3. Shortage of nurses. On top of the nursing shortage, baby boomers are beginning to retire and their medical needs will increase. With this growing demand, will EDs be able to keep up with growing medical demands?

The good news is you can do something about reducing your stress, regardless of whether you work in the ED or other departments.  Here are some tips to consider:

  1. Create healthy habits. Work in a health system that helps the staff stay healthy. If you’re healthy, you can take better care of your patients. We have to look at ourselves so we can be good role models. At Methodist, we have many programs which encourage staff to quit smoking, eat healthier and stay fit. The key is to engage and have fun. One example is Live Healthy North Texas, a 100-day team centric weight loss and activity program to challenge participants to lead healthier lifestyles. We have competitive teams within each department which earn points by logging in weekly exercise. It’s about fun. It’s about getting healthier. But most importantly, it’s about team spirit and support which is what clinicians need in highly stressful situations.
  2. Stay grounded. As stressful as your job may be, it’s very important to keep your job and your life in perspective. Your family needs you, and you need your family – so keep balance in work and family. Plan vacations. Take time off. Enjoy life.
  3. Be a team player. As the saying goes, teamwork makes light work, so look for a health system that believes in teamwork. Methodist is known for supporting its staff. That’s why the human resources department routinely reaches out to check on staff. That’s why it has an extensive staff recognition program. And it’s why senior leadership teams are accessible and believe in the shared governance model.

Clinician stress management is a necessity in fostering a positive workplace, as it prevents employee burnout and turnover. It is good for the employees and, therefore, good for the patients. To see why Methodist Health System is a brilliant choice for your career, please visit

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