Nursing managers know stress. The nursing management role is not only emotionally draining, but it also consists of incredibly long hours, demanding patients and overwhelming staff needs. The combination of these stressors can overwhelm anyone without proper self-care and support.

In 1960, a study revealed that nurse managers suffered from work-related stress that was triggered by various causes including:

  • Patient care
  • Decision-making
  • Embracing responsibilities
  • Managing change


Today nurse management roles require more responsibilities and unrealistic demands. Research shows that nurse management stress and anxiety can be attributed to:

  • Role overload
  • Role ambiguity
  • Fiscal responsibilities
  • Inadequate human resources
  • Intrapersonal distress

While some managers may thrive on the complexity of the role, others may feel overwhelmed and underappreciated. These emotional triggers can lead to feelings of anger, guilt, frustration, worry, and aggravation.

In turn, these feelings can impact good mental and physical health, resulting in sleeplessness, irritability, exhaustion, shortness of breath and tense muscles.

When mental and physical health is compromised, on-the-job performance can also be in jeopardy.


How to deal with the stress

As a manager, working hours are filled with complexity, unrealistic expectations, and competing priorities. At ENSEARCH, we talk with neonatal nurse managers every day. Here are some proven techniques they’ve successfully employed to manage stress and reduce anxiety on the job.


Think positively, avoid negativity

You’re probably already a “glass half full” personality type. Why else would you have taken on the job of helping people who themselves might already be experiencing fragility and vulnerability?

But it’s not always easy keeping an upbeat attitude when negativity and unnecessary personality conflicts arise among patients, physicians and administrators. In difficult situations, focus on seeing the positive when it’s not always evident.

Whenever possible, walk away from those experiences. Negative people and can be exhausting— you’ll experience a sense of control and empowerment when you tactfully remove yourself from these emotionally draining interactions.


Seek out support

Many managers have expressed feeling lonely on the job due to not feeling comfortable venting to their own staff and thinking it is not appropriate to be transparent with supervisors. This sense of isolation can negatively affect not just performance, but also patient outcomes.

Surround yourself with loyal colleagues and peers who can support you. Build relationships based on trust and shared experiences with co-managers. At ENSEARCH, we’ve witnessed first hand that nurse managers who successfully established solid networking systems enjoy improved self-esteem and a sense of empowerment.


Find mentors

Finding a mentor you can confide in and seek advice from is key to coping with stress.

One of our NNP managers recently shared, “I like bouncing ideas off my mentor. She holds my confidences. If I seem stressed out or down on myself, she’ll be the first to reassure me and offer new perspectives.”

A mentor will always offer support, ease concerns and provide helpful information that will advance on-the-job knowledge. This mentorship is priceless when it comes to managing stress.


Feel satisfied doing your best

You can’t do it all. No one can.

When you set realistic goals each day, you can leave work knowing that you succeeded in scratching two or three projects off your list. Give yourself a pat on the back every time you complete a task!

At the end of each day, you should leave your job feeling satisfied and proud that you did your best. You made accomplishments.


Learn to say “no”

For most managers, it’s difficulty saying “no” to random tasks and requests that may occur.

Why? Because you want to please; because you’d feel guilty if you didn’t; because you don’t want to let others down. Take your pick— we’ve all felt the same way at one time or another!

This additional workload can take a toll on performance. Taking on surprise tasks and unscheduled work is always a risk. Avoid unnecessary stresses by saying no to work that could easily be shouldered by a co-worker or nurse.


Take mental breaks

Taking a mental break can make a significant difference in your headspace. You’ll be surprised what a few moments of mindfulness can do for the soul.

“Sometimes it helps to just come into my office and be by myself for a few minutes,” says one of our managers.

Being mindful, praying, meditating or walking outside can all make a difference in your mental and physical well-being. Transfer your responsibilities to a seasoned staff member for 10 minutes, then escape to your happy place. Your sanity will thank you and your staff will enjoy taking on the challenge and feel good knowing they made a contribution.

Remember, this is a special time of solitude and self-reflection— so stay away from all paperwork, the phone, and the computer. Just clear your mind and let your worries melt away, if only for a few, sweet moments.


On the job, stress can lead to low job satisfaction and poor physical and mental health. Nurse managers cannot perform at a high level without good health. Practicing self-care and employing one of the mentioned stress-reducing tips can keep managing stress in the workplace.


Do you have a special technique of your own for dealing with stress? Please share them in the comments section below!