Focus on Self-Care: Shift Recovery

 Updated: December 11, 2019

photo of female medical professional holding forehead

Every RT has worked a shift that brought them to their knees. Recovering from these grueling shifts isn’t easy, but veteran therapists have learned how to do it. Two of them share their experiences with us here.

Multifaceted approach

Like most bedside therapists, Marie Agustin, RRT, says the level of care she is assigned to deliver on any given day plays the biggest role in determining how hectic that day will be.

“The intensive care areas — NICU/PICU, adult ICUs, ED — can be the most challenging physically, mentally, and emotionally,” she said. “In my years as a bedside clinician, I can honestly say that hectic shifts have been the norm, maybe because I have chosen to dedicate my time in these critical care areas.”

She says dealing with the families of patients can up the anxiety level as well, and fellow team members often contribute their fair share of stress too.

Agustin believes recovering from these shifts requires a multifaceted approach.

“Often, I discuss things with coworkers, and many times, I go home and openly talk things over with my spouse and children to get it off my chest,” she said. “Then I meditate and pray. Fortunately, I have been able to go back and just do it again!”

Creature comforts

For Aleathea Brown, RRT, RRT-NPS, a hectic shift is defined as one in which too many of her patients are going downhill. As soon as she finds a modality to help them begin to breathe better and adequately oxygenate, she’ll be called to another area of the hospital to care for another patient who also needs PRN nebs.

“Then you have patients intubated who need to be transported to CT or MRI,” she said. “Some days we walk over 25,000 steps and are lucky to get a lunch break.”

Brown says the acuity level varies from season to season and she’s already gearing up for the spike that typically begins around Thanksgiving and lasts well into the new year.

The creature comforts of home and family help her decompress.

“I get home and take a hot shower for about 20 minutes,” she said. “Get computer clothes on, then do a foot massager for 15 minutes and then tell my family I love them and proceed to pass out.”

Part of the job

Stress is just part of the job when you are an RT and overcoming an especially hard shift is something each therapist has to figure out what works for them. As Agustin and Brown illustrate, it doesn’t have to be big or flashy — anything that allows you to put the day into perspective so that you can come back to work tomorrow and once again deliver the best care possible to your patients will work.