How to Decompress After Traumatic Cases

Although there are many fantastic, everyday victories in the nursing profession, there are, of course, some wrenching and tough moments as well.

Whether providing end-of-life care or working through a mass casualty emergency response system, your training will aid in remaining focused and as compassionate as the situation allows. This is especially true when waves of trauma care begin to cause what is called "indirect trauma," which is intense stress that occurs as a result of working with those who've been traumatized. Nurses and other caregivers repeatedly exposed to difficult, painful experiences can begin to exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, including insomnia, mood changes, isolation, and other problems.

The keys to managing and preventing indirect trauma is learning how to decompress after traumatic situations and knowing which coping methods may work best for you.

Below are some relaxation tips to keep in mind.

Leave it at work

Separating work and home is one of the biggest relaxation challenges, though a necessary part of decompression. That doesn't mean you don't care about what happened or shouldn’t talk about it with your family, but it helps to create a habit where you set grief and pain aside when you walk in the door. Home as your personal sanctuary provides a safe place for normalcy.

Talk it out

Many hospitals offer nurse groups or stress management counselors who are trained to help with coping methods. If this is not currently available, consider creating an informal nursing group that meets regularly to share coping strategies; the behaviors, thoughts and emotions other nurses utilize daily. Many times, simply articulating the grief or pain you feel can be the release you need.

Develop a mantra

Mantra is a word or saying that is repeated frequently, usually to deepen concentration or meditation. In a UCLA study, researchers found that those who meditated through the combination of reciting mantras and certain form of yoga had reduced stress levels. As a nurse, you may choose to create your own mantra that resonates powerfully to and for you. Something like, "I make a difference every day with every patient," or "This is difficult now, but I am changing lives and that's what matters."

Learn and connect

A strategy that can be helpful in the long term is to augment your education, particularly by getting a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). With a strong program that focuses on the challenges as well as the benefits of nursing, you'll learn insights and best practices that have helped countless other nurses in traumatic situations. In addition to covering the coursework, you'll make connections with others who can be part of your support network and share their coping methods.

For more information about Anna Maria College’s online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program, contact us today at 877-265-3201 or visit


  1. International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. “Indirect trauma.” (accessed July 27, 2016).
  2. Reynolds, G. “Yoga may be good for the brain.” The New York Times. (accessed July 27, 2016).
  3. Wheeler, M. “Yoga reduces stress.” UCLA Newsroom. (accessed July 27, 2016).