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when nurses cry at work

Updated: Jan 1

“Never let them see you sweat.”

“Never let them see you cry.”

“If this is hard for you, maybe you just aren’t tough enough to do this job.”

These quotes are all pieces of the unspoken contract I agreed to when I became an ER nurse.

I still remember the first time I cried at work–I had been a nurse for 4 years and was 22 years old on orientation in my new job at a level one trauma center. When the tears came, my preceptor quickly took me into the med room and showed me her hack of bending forward, plugging my nose and exhaling like I was trying to pop my ears, and quickly bouncing back upright.* She swore this was a way to clear your face of that red, “You’ve been crying look.” I wish she had also taught me a way to clear my soul of the implied shame.

*All of you who made a mental note of this technique just revealed you need to read this blog post the most ;)

why nurses cry at work

Darling, you are a human having a human experience. You care deeply about your work, your patients, and their families. You are a lead player in the saddest and most difficult parts of patients' and families' stories. Of course, you are going to cry, darling.

Here’s what to do the next time you cry at work:

  • You are a human, having a human experience–do not apologize to others for your tears/response and stay with yourself and in your power

  • Simply state, “I am feeling really sad . . . deeply passionate. . . etc. because this person, this thing, or finding out I am mandated for Christmas Day is something I care about greatly

  • Practice fierce self compassion and ask for a minute to step away and catch your breath and support yourself–even 5 minutes can be great for a reset

  • Use that time to talk to someone at work that you trust--if you don’t trust anyone you work with, text or call someone you trust

  • Go somewhere quiet where you can breathe and reconnect with your body and the present moment--taking three long breaths in a quiet space is a way to do this

  • If you require a bigger reset, time away, and support, practice more fierce self-compassion and ask for what you need, even if that means going home–you are your biggest professional asset and need to take care of you first

If you read through these tips and thought that they sound nice but impossible, I’ve done them all . That’s right, hiding-in-the-med-room-blowing-out- my-ears-me has graduated to acknowledging my own humanity and you can too darling.

Are you interested in learning more about how you can change your experience as a nurse by changing how you support yourself at work? Just fill in the contact box at the bottom of this page!

P.S. If you've ever felt difficult emotions that were overwhelming at work. . .welcome to the club and welcome to MOOXLI!! To get helpful tips each week on how to support yourself as a nurse, join the MOOXLI email community by filling in the contact box at the bottom of this page.


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