Stress buster: Chaos theory helps nurses cope in the emergency room

Expect the unexpected. That's the mission of one nursing school program that teaches students about the chaos theory in order to help them cope with the stress they'll encounter on the job. 

Elena Capella, assistant professor and director of the online Master in Nursing program at San Francisco's School of Nursing and Health Professions, told The Huffington Post that the chaos theory can help nurses handle the intensity of the emergency room and keep calm in tough situations.

Nursing students typically receive training based on stable, theoretical examples, according to Capella. But the reality of the job involves unpredictable situations and constant changes. 

"We have all this standardization, but you're dealing with people, and people introduce all sorts of complexities to the picture," Capella told the publication. "There are patients that don't follow protocols, there are patients that have different backgrounds and understandings, there are miscommunications, there are problems with coordination. When you start introducing so many different pieces to an environment like healthcare, then it starts to become disorganized and very chaotic."

Capella teaches her students that a chaotic environment is natural and a zen-like mindset is essential to handle the stress of 12-hour shifts, lack of sleep and a poor diet, which often lead to sleeping problems, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. She incorporates personal reflection in her classes as well so students think about problems they solved or wish they solved.

Personal reflection and other similar practices, like mindfulness meditation, are catching on with nurses around the country as a way to handle the constant stress within the profession, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Mindfulness, the awareness of one's own thoughts and feelings, may even help prevent hospital-aquired infections.

To learn more:
- read the Huffington Post article

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