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General

Counseling for Nursing Assistants

Anyone working in medicine will appreciate that at times the industry can be stressful, even traumatic. Dealing with sick or dying people, heightened emotions, or the pressure of too many patients are all factors that affect the wellbeing of the care giver just as much as that of the patient. Nurse assistants are particularly susceptible to emotional stress owing to the minimal training undertaken and closeness to patients not experienced by many nurses or doctors.

The duties of a nurse assistant are usually described in job descriptions as a physically demanding role of offering care to patients needing help with grooming, making them comfortable in bed, helping with movement around the ward, changing bed linen etc. However most nurse assistants will explain this part of the role can be learned and undertaken almost instinctively, and that the real job of a nurse assistant is to offer emotional comfort to patients, and to be a friend during their stay in hospital. The workplace of course might be a private clinic or the patient’s home, yet still the nurse assistant is seen as both physical helper and emotional supporter.

It’s easy to understand then why so many nurse assistants become emotionally attached to their patients, and serious illness or death can be every bit as devastating to the carer as it is to family or friends of the patient. Most employers recognize this and put procedures in place to minimize the effect of emotional stress on staff, including in some cases the provision of counseling services.

The importance of professional counseling cannot be overstated; emotional stress can lead to depression, which can lead to physical symptoms such as lack of sleep, loss of diet, breathing difficulties, heart complaints, reduced immune system effectiveness and much more. Quite simply, the nurse assistant who allows their natural empathy for patients to become a mental issue is less effective at work and may cause serious harm to themselves directly or indirectly. It is therefore important they seek help at the first signs of not being able to cope.

Nurse assistants who request counseling should be aware that failing to take preventative steps, and then being involved in a patient mishap could be barred and face prosecution or be sued for negligence. Nurse assistants can be held liable just as nurses and doctors can be if a patient suffers harm or their rights are infringed.

Counseling is an established procedure used in high stress jobs throughout the world, particularly in medicine, the police, the military, fire service, air traffic control, and is a non-confrontational technique that encourages talking through issues affecting the wellbeing of the carer. The intention is not to prevent the carer from working, but instead to ensure the carer is able to continue giving the best possible care.

Privacy should be assured however be aware that employer appointed counselors or in-house psychologists may be required to add notations to your employee record that counseling has been provided, though the specifics of what has been discussed should be private. Seeking counseling outside the workplace can be more comfortable for nurse assistants who worry the employer might dismiss them, and in this case searching for a counselor with proper accreditation should be a high priority. Trade unions and local social services offices may be able to assist, and in some cases counseling might be provided free of charge.

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