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6 tips for calm in chaos

Author(s): Julie Cullen

By Julie Cullen, Managing Editor, American Nurse Today

A recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution touched on something that I’ve thought about before: How do nurses maintain their calm during what has seemed to me like utter chaos? I imagine exceptions to this exist, but in my experience, nurses have always appeared unruffled, self-assured, and reassuring. Do you use any of these six suggestions in your workplace when a situation is getting out of control? Do you have other tips you’d like to share?

  1. Stay composed. Appearing calm can be half the battle to settling down others—and yourself—during an emergency. Efficient movements and a slow and steady voice will help you stay composed and others feel more secure.
  2. Follow the blueprint. Have a plan in place so that you can manage your reactions to a chaotic situation. For example, if you know that loud voices cause you to feel panicked, you can develop a plan for how to cope with those reactions in the moment.
  3. It’s not your emergency. Rather than take on the fear and concern of your patients, stay focused on the care you need to provide. Later, when the situation has been resolved, you can take some time to debrief alone or with colleagues about the emotions that came up.
  4. Question, question, question. Asking questions has two functions: It helps you gather more information that can be used to provide the most appropriate care and it allows everyone to take a moment to think.
  5. Look over here. A little distraction can go a long way to calming a situation that might be spiraling out of control. An appropriately light-hearted comment offers an opportunity for a smile or chuckle in an otherwise stressful situation.
  6. Offer reassurance. Letting the patient and family know that they’re in good hands can help them relax a little and calm the situation.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution



  1. A patient never needs to see their nurse unraveled and nervous or angry. Ive witnessed it first hand ( unfortunate quite too often) disrupt an entire unit by one crappy attitude by one nurse…from our support staff who get grumpy to the residents that pick up on the bad vibes… as they say.”? rolls down hill ” u just THOUGHT u were having a bad day..


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