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National Nurses Day: Austin nurses find ways to relieve stress during COVID-19 pandemic

These are difficult times. It's important to think of those on the front lines of this pandemic like our nurses.

AUSTIN, Texas — It’s National Nurses Day on May 6, and we are constantly thankful for the work nurses do, especially during this pandemic.

Nurses are not only caring for many in the fight of their lives, but they're also putting their own lives at risk and that can be stressful.

Lee Ann Hoffman, a nurse at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, said the biggest stress for her is the “hurry up and wait.” 

They've been preparing for a large number of COVID-19 patients, but she said they haven’t seen those numbers yet. Instead, they anticipate a peak is still on the way and that's creating some fear and anxiety. So, she’s stepped in to help boost the morale of her team and help relieve that extra stress.

For fun, she started a crazy sock day, where staff can wear goofy socks every Friday. They also have a squat squad and meet to do squats every hour.

“I think it's important for people to know that, number one, we're human,” said Hoffmann. “We do laugh. We do cry and we do have stress. It’s good for us all to know that and for all us to be together with all of these different emotions.”

PHOTOS: Celebrating Austin nurses amid COVID-19 

Also, instead of those intimidating masks they have to wear, her team printed funny smiley faces on them to help brighten people's days. She told KVUE during this time that humor is healing for them and the patients.

“The patients are nervous coming into the hospital in the first place too with all that’s going on in the world, and for them to come in be able to laugh or smile or giggle, it kind of helps with their stress as well,” said Hoffmann.

The job of a nurse was already stressful before a pandemic, so now it's even more important that nurses bring that sense of humor and also remember to take breaks.

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“That means the little things like taking breaks, making sure you have time for nourishment during your work shift, making sure you plan for adequate rest time at home, that you’re able to sleep, have a full night's rest, deep breathing meditating and exercise,” said Cindy Zolnierek, CEO of Texas Nurses Association.

Zolnierek, who is also a registered nurse, said they should focus on self-care because with all that's going on, she's worried about nurses suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Nurses are in their environments and are experiencing a lot of anxiety and uncertainty and concern about contracting the virus or bringing the virus home to their family,” said Zolnierek. “That can be traumatic and the repercussion of that experience can extend far after the event itself.”

The Texas Nurses Association is celebrating nurses all month long and this week the focus is on self-care. These are difficult times. It's important to think of those on the front lines of this pandemic. 

National Nurses Week runs from May 6-12.

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