Emotional labor requires you to manage your emotions when working with people. There are times when you will be stressed to the max. Working with a difficult patient? Colleagues causing you problems? All of these things can take a toll on you. Because nurses and healthcare professionals must frequently perform emotional labor, you must learn to control your emotions in order to create a productive work environment and provide excellent patient care.
In this article, you will learn:
- What is emotional labor?
- What professions is emotional labor most common in?
- What are the impacts of emotional labor?
- How do you deal with emotional labor?
- How can nurses avoid job burnout?
What is emotional labor?
It is important to know exactly what emotions you’re dealing with because nurses and healthcare professionals must frequently perform emotional labor. It is an invisible part of your job.
Emotional labor is how you manage your emotions during interactions with people you work with. This can include staff and patients.
Emotional labor is a lot like physical labor – both require a lot of work and effort. Nurses perform a lot of emotional labor and physical labor every day. Phew!
It can be easy to want to lash out or express negative emotions, especially when the stress has become too much. You might have to “fake it till you make it” in order to have a good attitude during your shift. Maybe you find yourself having a pep talk before each shift. These are all signs that your emotional labor is very high.
What professions is emotional labor most common in?
Effective emotional labor is one of the essential skills to excel in careers that involve helping other people. Here are some professional workers who have to perform emotional labor regularly:
- Healthcare workers
- Social workers
- Restaurant and hotel staff
- Flight attendants
- Customer service representatives
- Law enforcement and emergency response workers
Why is emotional labor unavoidable in nursing?
You know that working in the healthcare system is a stressful and emotionally demanding job. Healthcare workers, especially nurses, face unique emotional challenges like working outside your specialty or with terminal patients. Performing emotional labor at hospitals is at the top of these challenges.
Some of the most common culprits:
- Nursing shortage
- Long shifts
- Inconsistent schedule
- COVID-19 stress
- Disrespectful patients
What are the impacts of emotional labor?
Emotional labor can have adverse effects on your physical health and mental well-being when you do not perform it effectively. Following are the two fundamental issues that emotional labor causes in nursing and other healthcare professions:
1. Mental health problems
Performing emotional labor regularly drives you to the edge of job burnout. If you work 12-hours and/or night shifts frequently, work with disrespectful patients, or work in a toxic environment, you are more vulnerable to depression and anxiety.
The nursing shortage, and a hectic work routine in hospitals, have also been causing various anxiety issues among healthcare workers.
These are the most common mental health problems that emotional labor causes:
2. Reduced quality of professional services
Emotional labor not only leaves negative impacts on professional workers but also affects the quality of services they provide. For example, stress among nurses lowers the quality of patient care because of emotional exhaustion. Patients don’t have a positive experience when workers aren’t focused on their job.
Expert advice from nurses like you
How do you deal with emotional labor?
Professional workers can learn to cope with stress at work and avoid job burnout by maintaining a healthy work-life balance. This significantly helps in offering high-quality professional services by performing less emotional labor.
There are many do’s and don’ts of performing smart and effective emotional labor at work, especially in a healthcare facility.
1. Identify and get rid of your stressor
If you don’t identify what is causing stress, you can’t avoid being exhausted. Therefore, identifying your workplace stressors is the first step to performing emotional labor smartly. You can start this by tracing situations, conditions, or people who cause your stress level to rise.
Once you have figured out what your stressors are, it is easier to handle job stress. You should take immediate action to rid yourself of specific routines that are causing you to fall into depression. Taking too long to deal with this may lead you to an emotional breakdown or job burnout.
2. Never skip your meals and rest breaks
Due to the nursing shortage, nurses often delay their meals or skip mandatory rest breaks. If you think you are helping your patients by working long shifts without taking adequate rest, think again. You are not only compromising quality patient care but also driving yourself to the edge of exhaustion. You should never sacrifice your meals and rest breaks during a nursing shift.
3. Keep yourself motivated
Performing emotional labor is a stressful yet necessary requirement of nursing jobs. This tiring practice becomes even more exhausting when people at your workplace are not cooperating with you. These irritating individuals could include your nursing employer, colleagues, or patients.
You should keep yourself composed and motivated to deal with such situations and people. You can encourage rude patients to cooperate with you by showing compassion and patience. Looking for a new healthcare facility might be a good option to avoid job burnout when your current workplace has become a toxic environment.
4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle in your personal life is equally important. You can’t deliver competent patient care if you are not working at your best.
You can perform emotional labor at work without exhausting yourself when you are:
- Following a proper diet
- Getting enough sleep
- Exercising regularly
- Enjoying your off days
5. Consider low-stress nursing jobs
High-paying nurse jobs demand a certain level of dedication and often come with a stressful routine. However, some nursing positions feature a flexible work schedule and a relatively relaxed daily routine. Such nursing jobs might be less beneficial in terms of salary and compensation but could help you markedly avoid exhaustion and burnout.
Cheer up! We have some job suggestions for you if you are looking for lower-stress nursing positions.
- Nurse educator
- Research nurse
- School/summer camp nurse
- Nurse informaticist
- Legal nurse consultant
- Occupational health nurse
- Public health nurse
- Nurse case manager
- Home health nurse
How can nurses avoid job burnout?
Nursing is one of the most stressful careers that demands a lot of physical and emotional effort. A frustrating work routine can often leave you feeling depressed and exhausted.
Tired of applying for nursing jobs?
With Incredible Health, hospitals apply to YOU.
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- “Job burnout: How to spot it and take action.” mayoclinic.org. Accessed Feb. 18, 2022.
- “Strategies for Managing Work Stress in the Workplace: The Ultimate Guide.” onlinenursing.duq.edu. Accessed Feb. 18, 2022.
- “What is Cognitive Dissonance?” verywellmind.com. Accessed Feb. 18, 2022.
- “What is Depression?” psychiatry.org. Accessed Feb. 18, 2022.