PTSD and the Trauma Nurse: Now What?


[Love these Trauma 'Meerkats']
Despite spending 25 years of my life in Emergency Departments, it seems strange to me that I have trouble recalling the horrific injuries and events where I delivered care directly. And that is probably a good thing.

I do remember coming on shift one morning and learning that the night crew worked to save the lives of a mom and her two little boys following their vicious stabbing. The boys died.

I was met with incredulity when I asked ..."So why didn't anybody call us in?"

Part of what makes a good ER Nurse great is to "never letting them see you sweat" and being proud of it. Keeping your cool is extremely important and I totally support that - but after witnessing the violent deaths of a 5 year old and 7 year old, I'm thinking that maybe - just maybe - these nurses, techs and docs should have had every effort made to relieve them of having to care for the yeast infection or snotty nose down the hall.

Call me a bleeding heart but I have never forgotten the nurse who came to me that morning, recounting all three stabbing victims arriving simultaneously around 3 am. CPR in progress on the two boys, their Dad pacing the corridors of the ER, their mom, alive but seriously injured. The chaos that ensued and then wrapping it all up by reporting off on the other patients that remained in his care.

Police, Firefighters/Paramedics who responded to this event were all taken 'off service' following it.

No one was called in to relieve the ER staff.

I 'get' that in events such as these, the last thing on the minds of ER nurses is to have someone come in to take care of them. But I guess what I am suggesting here is that it might be a good idea to have a plan in place - in the event that your ER staff might really need to be cared for. Would you have a problem with coming in early or on a day off to relieve one of your peers after such a traumatic event? I didn't think so.

There is nothing like ER Nursing. But we could use some adjuncts for ourselves to stay healthy.


It helped me. No - I didn't talk about the blood and guts but I did learn techniques and strategies to help deal with my trauma. Therapy is something to think about - especially if you are experiences panic attacks and/or self destructive behaviors - you know what they are.

Creative Visualization:

Years ago, I read somewhere, something about Creative Visualization.
It takes about as much time as it would to take 5 deep breaths. I've practiced this technique for years and I'm sharing it with you because it really seems to help... especially when you are feeling particularly overwhelmed, negative or angry. You can do it behind a curtain, in a bathroom, in the med room, anywhere.
Close your eyes and "visualize" or imagine the color pink (or purple, or blue ...whatever brings you peace). Breathe the color in through your nose. Visualize the color entering your lungs, exchanging into your cells, travelling down to your fingertips and toes. Now exhale forcefully. Visualize cleansing black soot releasing from your body and coming out of your mouth and nose.

Instant "Attitude Adjustment". I swear.


I attended a conference recently where Dan Harris presented his take on Meditation after experiencing a live "on air" panic attack... This 13 minute video is worth your time.

Meditation? The way I look at it... can't hurt - and might help.

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