Cost of caring

A nursing welfare organisation is encouraging Latrobe Valley nurses to take time to look after themselves throughout the holiday period.

Nursing and Midwifery Health Program chief executive Glenn Taylor wished to spread the message that “nurses are regular people too” before the holiday period arrived in full force.

Referring to the additional stress placed on nurses as the “cost of caring”, Mr Taylor said during the holiday period nurses needed to look after themselves, each other and their families before their work commitments.

“(The cost of caring refers to) people who are employed in their everyday life to give, but still have all those roles in caring for the family,” Mr Taylor said.

“They go to work and care for people at work who are sick and ill and might experience some trauma or vicarious trauma, then they go home and do it all over again and they might only have a few minutes at the end of the day to catch their breath before they go to bed.”

“In our experience it can get quite demanding over the Christmas and new year period because kids are often not at school.”

Mr Taylor said in addition to regular caring expectations, extra demands over the Christmas period also placed stress or anxiety on nurses.

“The expectations that we have around Christmas and providing for our families and being almost perfect with almost everything we do creates a bit of added pressure,” he said.

“We deal with people who have been through a lot of stress and anxiety and Christmas can be a hard time for a lot of people, it can be lonely for many people, it can be an anniversary, they might have spent it with parents and they might have passed away since then.”

As many nurses take leave over the holiday period, Mr Taylor said absent staff created strains in workplaces as regular routines “could be thrown out of whack”.

“Things can get a bit hard being short-staffed and everything continues to tick along, but people continue to get unwell and continue to need their support,” Mr Taylor said.

While nurses need to look after themselves, Mr Taylor stressed the public should realise those caring for them are people too.

“It’s important for them to acknowledge that we’re not robots, we have feelings, even though we’re professionals we still have emotions, we get sick, we get tired, we get angry, we get stressed and anxious ourselves,” he said.

Any registered nurse can seek free, confidential help from the health program whose counsellors are available over the phone during business hours or by making an appointment for their monthly visit to Traralgon.