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"The Mental Health Consequences of COVID-19 on Nurses"

Updated: Dec 8, 2023


Male nurse sitting on floor
"The Mental Health Consequences of COVID-19 on Nurses" Project Renew

How is the pandemic still affecting nurses today?


Nurses are still feeling the effects of the pandemic even as the world begins to recover. Even though the number of severe COVID-19 cases has decreased, the pandemic's effects on the nursing profession have not abated. The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated already difficult conditions for nurses.


With the heights of the pandemic seemingly in the past for many, nurses are still affected by COVID-19 today. And although this doesn't mean that the same numbers of people are suffering critically from the virus, it does mean that the nursing profession is still feeling the strain from being overworked and understaffed for such a long time. Pre-pandemic nursing had its struggles, and these are only amplified by the emergency created by COVID-19.


Reports of nurses suffering from various mental health conditions are at an all-time high, and burnout is prevalent in hospitals across the globe.



What effects are nursing still feeling from the pandemic?


A report on nurse's mental health found that:


● Nearly half of the nurses report having more trouble sleeping than before the pandemic.

● Over 60% feel more stressed.

● Over 50% feel increased anxiety.

● About half feel sad or depressed.

● Over half were feeling the effects of burnout.



Burnout


Many worn-out nurses are abandoning their careers due to the strain of their jobs, choosing instead to focus on their emotional well-being. Concerns have been raised about the ability of newly trained nurses to effectively manage the demanding nature of their profession without the benefit of senior mentors, despite the fact that the number of nursing students entering the profession has increased since 2020.


Burnout can take months to recover from. Rest and seeking professional support can help aid recovery. COVID burnout seems different.


Not only have nurses been coping with the added pressures on their jobs, but the uncertainty that came with the pandemic added another layer of stress that is hard to recover from quickly.



Job-related stress


As nursing roles have become evermore stressful over the pandemic, exhausted nurses are making the tough decision to leave the profession and look after their own mental health.


Despite many experienced nurses leaving their jobs, there have been large uptakes in new nurses being trained since 2020. The worry, however, is that with large numbers of veteran nurses to pass on their expertise, new nurses may be able to get to grips with such a fast-paced profession.



Planning for Mental Health Wellness

Nurses mental health

Throughout the pandemic, nurses frequently provided emotional support to patients who could not have visitors during lockdowns. The payback for giving themselves so much so freely is that nurses are now experiencing emotional burnout in the forms of anxiety or depression.


This is just one aspect of what has contributed to a decline in nursing mental health. Other factors, including long working hours, staff shortages, inefficient PPE, and many other variables, have collectively pushed nurses to the edge.





Reflection on the Pandemic?

Has any good come from the pandemic?

The pandemic has brought a new appreciation for the excellent work nurses do daily. Social media and news articles have played a part in highlighting the critical work of healthcare professionals during and post-pandemic.


Online patient care has also been a success during the pandemic. With teething problems at the beginning, this option for online care is now preferred by many and frees up healthcare professionals' time to see more patients each day. Conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease can be monitored effectively without the need for face-to-face appointments.


There is no hiding the fact that much work still needs to be done to re-ignite the flame that used to burn in the nursing profession. Whilst many nurses still love their jobs and want to do their best for their patients, there is no denying the need for change in the healthcare system to create better working conditions and safe staffing levels in hospitals.




Frontline Appreciation during pandemic

How is the pandemic still affecting nurses today?

Nurses are still grappling with the enduring effects of the pandemic, even as the world takes cautious steps toward recovery. While the severity of COVID-19 cases has decreased, the impact on the nursing profession remains palpable. The crisis has cast a stark light on nurses' already challenging conditions.


In the wake of the pandemic's peak, nurses are far from untouched by its legacy. While the immediate threat might have waned, the toll of prolonged overwork and understaffing lingers. Even before the pandemic, the trials that characterized nursing have been further exacerbated, creating an even more arduous landscape for these dedicated professionals.


Reports highlight a concerning surge in mental health concerns among nurses. Burnout has become pervasive across hospitals worldwide. Fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression have become all too familiar companions for those on the frontlines. The pandemic's repercussions on nursing extend beyond physical health, weaving a complex tapestry of emotional challenges that continue to impact the well-being of nurses.


What effects are nursing still feeling from the pandemic?

A study on the mental health of nurses during the pandemic paints a sombre picture:

  • Almost half of the nurses report experiencing more sleep troubles than before.

  • Over 60% are grappling with increased stress levels.

  • More than 50% battle heightened anxiety.

  • Around half acknowledge feelings of sadness or depression.

  • Over half admit symptoms of burnout.

The spectre of burnout looms large. Many nurses have opted to leave their professions, prioritizing their emotional well-being. Concerns rise over the readiness of newly trained nurses to handle the demands of the job without the guidance of experienced mentors, even as nursing student enrollment increases post-2020.

While burnout is no stranger to healthcare professionals, the unique nature of COVID-19 burnout sets it apart. Nurses faced the pressures of their roles and grappled with the uncertainty that the pandemic brought. This additional layer of stress makes the recovery process all the more challenging.


Job-related stress

Nurses are at a crossroads in the face of escalated stress and exhausting demands. For some, the decision to leave the profession is a way to reclaim their own mental well-being. While experienced nurses depart, new nurses have joined the ranks in significant numbers since 2020. Yet, the concern persists: Can these new entrants navigate the high-speed environment without the guidance of seasoned mentors?


The landscape is complex, characterized by a dynamic interplay of new beginnings and experienced farewells. In this paradox, the legacy of the pandemic continues to shape the nursing profession.


Thank you nurses!


Reflection:

  1. How has the pandemic affected you? Both at home and work?

  2. Did you experience these problems before the pandemic?

  3. Are the effects of the pandemic lessening?

  4. Do you have any first-hand experience with this issue from your time as a nurse, or any other field? Are the pandemic's effects waning?


Sources:


7.Liu, Y., Wei, X., Fan, W., & Chen, Z. (2021). The Psychological and Behavioral Responses of Health Care Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Systematic Review. Journal of Medical Systems, 45(2), 174.

8.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8363901/


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