What are the keys to happiness in nursing?

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For these veteran nurses, finding the key to happiness in nursing has helped them not only to survive but also to thrive

Nursing is an incredibly rewarding profession, but it can also be extremely stressful. From pulling extra shifts to helping patients and their families with important and even life-threatening health issues, many nurses find themselves stressed out and facing anxiety and depression.

A 2018 national study found that 32.8% of nurses reported some degree of depression, 51.9 percent said they experienced anxiety and 38.7% reported stress.

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For these veteran nurses, finding the key to happiness in nursing has helped them not only to survive but to thrive in their profession through long, stressful hours:

It's all about teamwork

For Angelina "Nini" Trinidad, who has been a nurse for 57 years and currently serves at Emory Johns Creek Hospital, stress is a lot about how you respond to things rather than the trigger itself. Sometimes it's smaller issues that can cause stress on a particular day.

She recommends reaching out to co-workers for help.

"If you work as a team, there's always a coworker that will help you out," Trinidad said. Whether it's a nurse, team leader, supervisor or charge nurse, you can always find help from someone who knows the challenges that come with the job.

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Sharon Pappas, a nurse for more than 40 years who currently works as a chief nurse executive at Emory Healthcare, finds a similar path to happiness in her profession.

"I have always found that such a key to happiness in nursing to me was the people on my team," she said. They serve as partners and share values and a common purpose.

"You can celebrate together, you can cry together," Pappas added.

Taking care of yourself

Self-care is also an important part of being happy in the profession, according to Jennifer Schletty, an ICU nurse with WellStar Atlanta Medical Center. She's been a nurse for 29 years and knows that between the physical and emotional demands of the job, it's easy to get burned out. Hours are long, and you're often called on to serve people who are experiencing the most difficult times in their lives.

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“It’s important to take time for your own self-care,” she said in an email. “Take time to find ways to reduce your stress so you can be your best person, not just a good nurse.”

She also stressed the importance of going into nursing for the right reasons. "If you don't have a desire or passion for genuinely caring for people, this is not the job for you and you won't last," she wrote.

Joyce G. McMurrain, program coordinator for student nurse externs at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, wrote about the importance of "refilling your own bucket."

"You need to find a place where you feel supported so that you can in turn make a difference through the care you give to others," added McMurrain, who has been a registered nurse for 55 years. "Staying active and connected with friends and family and finding some spiritual outlet is important to one's own well-being."

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A sense of purpose

Regina Duncan, who has been a nurse for 20 years, manages to stay positive in the particularly challenging field of oncology. The Emory Decatur Hospital nurse remembers what's important when she's stressed and tired.

"I love being a nurse, I really do," she said. "I think it's because our profession is a profession where you can touch somebody's life for the better. You know what you did was impactful and meaningful."

Duncan said she also learns so much from her patients, who come from every walk of life. They handle their illnesses with strength, grace and hope and take the time to ask her about her day despite their own struggles.

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