Nearly one in five hospital nurses is wrestling with depression, creating wellness and productivity concerns for their employers, according to a University of North Carolina study.
Writing in Clinical Nurse Specialist, researchers surveyed nearly 1,200 hospital RNs and found that 18% of them were depressed—or twice the rate of the national population.
Higher depression scores were linked with body mass index, higher number of health problems, and job satisfaction.
Like anyone dealing with depression, these nurses have difficulty concentrating and are accident-prone, according to the study. Researchers found that pain and depression were significantly linked with presenteeism which in turn accounted for medication errors, patient falls, and perceived quality of care.
More than 70% reported working with some pain or health problem that negatively affected their productivity in the past two weeks.
"High-stress environments are likely to contribute to more health problems for nurses, including mental health issues," according to Susan Letvak, one of the study's lead authors. Mental health issues are less likely to be disclosed to employers than physical problems, Letvak says.
Advanced practice nurses are positioned to identify depression symptoms in staff, educate them about the high prevalence of depression in nurses, and inform them of treatment options, according to Letvak. The study recommended devoting more attention to depression screening for nurses and early treatment (Theiss, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/25).