How to best support staff through a pandemic as a nurse manager

Coronavirus pandemic . Tired exhausted doctor, nurse after long shift fighting against Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) at hospital clinic. Global pandemic outbreak Coronavirus -CoVid-19 worldwide virus.

Whether in acute care, aged care or community health, this year has been challenging and stressful on all staff. As a nurse manager, you want to support nurses, midwives and carers, particularly at this time, but what is the best way to achieve this while also looking after your own mental health?

To find out we talked to Mark Aitken, Registered Nurse and Stakeholder Engagement Manager of Nurse & Midwife Support on how best nurse managers can support staff while also maintaining their own self-care during the pandemic and beyond.

ANMJ: As a nurse manager, what would be the top three things you could do to support and protect nursing staff during the nursing pandemic?

Mark: Listen to concerns and fearsprovide support and resourcescheck in regularly to assess the stress temperature of nursing staff.

ANMJ: What can you do to build resilience in staff?

Mark: Listen to my podcast! I speak to Professor Kim Foster, Mental Health Nurse and resilience expert.


  • Have a positive outlook on life
  • Engage in reflective practice and supervision
  • Develop your personal skills and access resources that support you
  • Have a proactive problem-solving approach to work
  • Develop an awareness and acknowledgement of your strengths
  • Know and understand how you respond in stressful situations. Connect with your stress triggers and intervene early to reduce them
  • Understand your physical, emotional, mental cues when under stress
  • Have a well-developed sense of humour
  • Learn how to manage emotions when under stress
  • Challenging negative self-talk
  • Find ways to reduce stress at work and home; and
  • Have a workplace that provides understanding, support and resources to assist your wellbeing.

ANMJ: If a staff member is displaying signs of not coping or stress, what is the best way to support them?

MARK: Ask that simple question- are you OK?

  • Ensure you do this privately so the person doesn’t feel exposed or threatened Ask if this is a good time for them to have a conversation about their wellbeing as you have noticed there may be a problem
  • Listen actively without judgement
  • Show compassion and empathy
  • Don’t jump in and offer solutions unless they are requested
  • Provided resources and information towards the end of the conversation such as:

Nurse & Midwife Support- National, 24/7, anonymous, confidential and free: Phone: 1800 667 877

Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria (NMHPV) Victoria only: Phone: 03 9415 7551

Your organisation’s Employee Assistance Program

  • Then inform them that you would like to check in again soon. Make a time. Remind them that they are not alone and you as their manager are available.

The R U OK? organisation also has excellent resources to support you having this conversation

ANMJ: Being a nurse manager is difficult in the best of times; how should you try to conduct yourself during so much uncertainty and stress?

MARK: Look after yourself- ensure you continue to engage in your self-care and set boundaries concerning work. If you feel well, supported and cared for you will have more energy, be less reactive, make considered rather than knew jerk decisions.

Tips for looking after YOU:

  • Eat nutritious food
  • Ensure you are adequately hydrated
  • Exercise
  • Get quality sleep
  • Stay connected to people in your life who care about you and support you
  • Remind yourself that you are enough and doing the best you can
  • Do something each day that makes your heart sing.

Complete the NMHPV self-care survey, develop your own self-care plan and check out the health and wellbeing resources:

If you are feeling stressed or concerned about your workload, wellbeing, or any other concern seek support early. Speak to your manager, a trusted colleague or a human resources staff member or contact:

  • Nurse & Midwife Support- Phone: 1800 667 877
  • Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria (NMHPV) Phone: 03 9415 7551
  • Your organisation’s Employee Assistance Program

You can also listen to nurse and midwife support’s podcast on dealing with stress during crisis

ANMJ: What is the best way to self-care as a manager to perform your job well during these times?

MARK: Many managers think self-care is an extravagance- this is not true. Increasingly, we know that self-care isn’t only beneficial for personal health; it’s an essential part of being a good manager.

Use a self-care checklist. It will assist in keeping your self-care in focus:

  • Are you able to take time for yourself without feeling guilty?
  • Do you believe you deserve self-care?
  • Do you know the difference between self-care and self-indulgence?
  • Do you realise self-care does not equal weakness?
  • Are you okay with slowing down sometimes?
  • Do you have a go-to list of self-care activities?
  • Do you make leisure time a priority?
  • Have you made self-care a habit?
  • Do you have a basic self-care plan, preferably in writing?

Tips for self-care:

  • Self-care is individual. What works for someone else may not work for you. Don’t be hard on yourself if you try something and it doesn’t work. Acknowledge the feeling and try something else.
  • Relaxation is key. Choose an activity you enjoy that replenishes you, such as mindfulness, meditation, nature, socialising, regular breaks from work. Try to build relaxation time into every day.
  • Establish a self-care routine.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine- drink plenty of water.
  • Schedule health checks- take responsibility for your own health.
  • Do something each day that makes your heart sing.
  • Do things mindfully- eat, walk, observe.
  • Exercise: gym, yoga, team sports- whatever works for you.
  • Practice positive self-talk.
  • Listen to your body- don’t ignore your need for rest. If it feels like you’re always tired no matter how much you rest, have a chat with your GP about how you’re feeling and what steps you can take to help.
  • Meditate or practice mindfulness.
  • Take a break from technology.
  • Connect and socialise with people that make you happy!
  • Self-advocate- many of us are experiencing additional professional pressures. Tell your manager what you need to thrive.

Nurse & Midwife Support is the national 24/7 support service for nurses, midwives and students. If you would like to talk to a midwife or nurse about your self-care or any other issue, please call Nurse & Midwife Support anytime- 1800 667 877 or check out the website at

You may not be sure why you need to call us but know you need support. We will help you to work through your issue and gain clarity about the next steps you may wish to take to manage the problem.

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