Nurses and PTSD: Exploring Diagnostic and Treatment Options

Browsing through a nursing discussion forum I was touched to see how the discussion of nurses with PTSD has begun to develop momentum and steam…and that nurses are “beginning” to share their experiences. Only through nurses coming out of the dark tunnel that PTSD “is” can more nurses be empowered to feel safe enough to discuss their wounds. No one associates PTSD with nurses as they would with police officers, firefighters, or combat soldiers…but unfortunately, it is so very real, and the incidence of it is rising rapidly as nurses are placed in the most impossible positions every day, with equally impossible workloads (at times unethical) that are dangerously unsafe for both patient and nurse alike. What I don’t like seeing, (and I think this is an evolving discussion…just the beginning of what needs to be an in depth exploration…..both quantitative and qualitative in nature)….I do not like seeing nurses judge how each one chooses treatment.

While I recommend that nurses seek formal diagnosis and enrollment in a PTSD program to help deal with the lifelong sequelae I hate to see nurses come down on psychotropic drugs as a treatment modality. What this does is discourage other nurses to view that as a viable treatment option that could very well work for them. The thing is, everyone who suffers with PTSD has a different, albeit, similar experience. While the clinical picture presents the same, the person’s experience—does not. Everyone copes with it differently, views it differently, struggles with it—differently. I think that the online forum is great for sharing, therapeutic even, but at the same time it can also hinder effective diagnosis and treatment of individuals who have no idea how the different treatment options out there can be beneficial to them.

What works for one, may not work for another…..discouraging any form of treatment by discussing your negative experiences with it should be something that is done with great caution, because ultimately you could be influencing whether someone decides to go forward with pharmaceutical treatment or not. It may not have worked for you, but it could work for the next person….and give them a chance at a life of less pain and suffering. (If you do have PTSD, you are aware of the unique kind of pain I am referring to. It is extremely difficult to describe) Quality of life is defined not by the whole of us, but by each and every one of us as a single person. Its fine to highlight the downside of psychotropic drugs…..but its just as crucial to emphasize the positive aspects of that treatment modality. The same goes for a comprehensive PTSD treatment program.

No one can go it alone. No one can deal with PTSD without a multi disciplinary approach to management and come out a healthier more aware individual…..those who do say they can deal with it alone…in my opinion, are those who are not, by any means, living their best life. I’ts an ongoing journey with peaks and valleys. PTSD is a diagnosis that takes insight, time, and effort on both the part of the patient and clinician, it takes active discussion, and trial of different treatments to find the optimal regimen for each patient……without trial and error, without giving every treatment a chance until the right mix of therapies are achieved does no one justice….least of all, the nurse who is deciding whether or not to seek/adhere to treatment for PTSD.

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