HomeClinical TopicsNurses and PTSD: Combine professional care with self-care

Nurses and PTSD: Combine professional care with self-care

Author(s): American Nurse Today

Is it really any surprise that one in four nurses will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) sometime during their careers? You work with patients when they’re at their most vulnerable and fragile, struggling to survive. You also may face verbal and physical abuse from patients and families. Nursing is a high-stress profession that can include personal physical and emotional risk.

Taking care of yourself is critical to recovering from PTSD. Start by knowing the symptoms: agitation, irritability, hypervigilance, self-destructive behavior, social isolation, flashbacks, fear, severe anxiety, mistrust, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, guilt, loneliness, insomnia, nightmares, emotional detachment, and unwanted thoughts. Ask for help from your employer or primary care provider. The National Alliance on Mental Illness recommends combining psychotherapy and medication with complementary therapies such as yoga, meditation, and water therapy.

If you’re a nurse leader, you have an opportunity to support your employees. Seek out resources and advocate for organizational assistance for nurses with PTSD. Engage with your staff. When you listen, encourage, and support them, you develop trust, which can go a long way toward getting them the help they need.

Don’t let the work you do caring for patients prevent you from taking care of yourself. Speak up if you think you may be suffering from PTSD.

Learn more about self-care and wellness in the Wellness 101 series at American Nurse Today.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution



  1. I have always worked some facet of mental health. I have had to learn and nurture my self care practices. It is especially hard to leave the issues at work. It is a symptom of the compassion I feel for those with mental health concerns. I have found that if I go to a yoga class twice a week I will do yoga everyday at home. I also have found a way to practice breath-work, meditative practice that enables me to hold the person close to my heart and imagine surrounding him/her with light. It is prayerful. Then I can let it be. It also works for grandchildren and friends to discontnect myself from the worry dragon.


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