Advice wanted: how do I cope with trauma as a nurse?


As a nurse or midwife, how do you cope with witnessing trauma and traumatised people? That’s the question Antonia asks today, seeking advice from other nurses. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Antonia writes: I spent 13 hours in ED yesterday with only a 20-minute break. Working alongside doctors and nurses who worked the same hours as me for half as much as a plumber gets.


How can I relate normally to anyone after this? Paranoia sets in, because we cannot meet the demands of people who look to the government to provide the support a community would give, except that there is no community that most damaged people will access, because community means sharing and tolerance and working for the connection to the spirit that drugs give them instantly.

How can I bounce around when I’m full of the tragedy of others?

Ideas please on how to cope with vicarious trauma – beside watching my kids, TV and the beach…



  1. I work in a busy public mental health inpatient unit in metropolitan Melbourne. I am very fortunate to work in a service that has recognised the benefit of clinical supervision for its staff. Those of us who utilise this service have found that it is of great benefit. We have the opportunity to unload, decompress and discuss ways to work with our patients and to talk about our workload, clinical practice and to reflect on our work and how we practice.
    I believe so much in this that I am going to undertake clinical supervision training so that I can be part of the support system to my fellow nurses. I am also thinking of expanding this and working with nurses outside the health service in which I work.
    If your workplace does not provide clinical supervision (as opposed to line management), I would encourage you to seek this out from a private source; you may find it very helpful.
    I hope this has been of some use to you.

  2. I work in a remote area of the NT and have been involved in a number of traumatising incidents and my advice is – time and tears help, but maybe not heal. We can gloss over some things but some things hit us worse. Use that pain to make you more compassionate towards the people who are suffering and remember you are doing a job which is needed and worthwhile.

  3. I am a Midwife – awesome job – but when it’s tragic, the pain is so raw it’s unbearable. You can’t discuss this stuff with partners, family or friends. Debrief with your colleagues, speak to a specialist or counsellor and above all, don’t try to ignore that which bothers you. It touches a nerve for a reason. We go into this job because we want to be there for people at their most vulnerable time. However, self care is very important, exercise, good nutrition and a massage, meditation or some form of relaxation therapy are all important. I liken it to the plane analogy. They always tell you on an airplane that you need to put your oxygen mask on BEFORE your child’s – why is that.. because you can’t help your child if you are out cold from oxygen deprivation. Similarly, take good care of yourself, you can’t properly care for others in their time of need if you too are falling apart.


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