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July 22, 2022

Charted: 1 in 10 nurses have experienced suicidal thoughts during the pandemic

Daily Briefing

    Trusted Health on Wednesday released its third annual "Frontline Nurse Mental Health & Well-Being" report, highlighting the many challenges nurses face in their roles.

    Our take: 3 strategies to build baseline emotional support for your nursing staff

    Report details and key findings

    For the report, in May ,Trusted Health conducted an online survey of over 2,500 nurses across different departments and specialties. Almost 40% of respondents were in their thirties, and roughly two-thirds of respondents were under the age of 40.

    In the survey, when respondents were asked to rate their current mental health on a scale of one to 10, they reported an average of 5.8—a 26% decline from the pre-pandemic average of 7.8. While this marks a small improvement from Trusted Health's previous surveys, which reported a decrease of 29% in 2021 and 28% in 2020, it indicates that nurses' mental health has still not rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.

    Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, nurses have experienced an onslaught of challenges that have had a significant impact on their mental health and well-being. For example, 75% of respondents reported feelings of burnout, 66% experienced compassion fatigue, 64% reported feelings of depression, 64% experienced a decline in their physical health.

    Notably, 50% of respondents said they have experienced extreme feelings of trauma, extreme stress, and/or PTSD since the pandemic began.

    Meanwhile, half of the respondents said they were attacked, intimidated, or assaulted by a patient or their family, echoing reports that suggest violence against health care workers has increased during the pandemic. 

    In addition, one in ten nurses reported that they have had suicidal thoughts since the pandemic began—more than double the frequency of the general adult population in United States. 

    According to Dani Bowie, Trusted Health's VP of clinical strategy and transformation, many of the problems nurses face are often ignored by nurses' managers or simply go unnoticed—an issue she said often stems from nurse managers being too overworked to have meaningful discussions about mental health.

    "Nurse managers who are supporting the frontline are often more worried about filling open shifts, so they don't really have time in their huddles to talk about mental health resources that may be of benefit," Bowie said.

    While there has been a push to focus more on mental health and well-being in the health care industry in recent years, Trusted Health's survey has consistently found that most nurses do not feel that their mental health is supported on a systemic level.

    Overall, 95% of respondents said that their mental health is either not a priority or acknowledged that it is a priority but there are not adequate measures in place to support it.

    In 2022, the percentage of nurses who said that they are less committed to nursing because of the pandemic increased by 39%, rising from 46% in 2021 to 64% in 2022. In particular, 72% of nurses ages 20 to 29 and 69% of nurses ages 30 to 39 said they felt less committed to nursing.

    Addressing nurses' mental health challenges

    To effectively address nurses' mental health challenges, the report urges industry leaders to focus on three key areas, including:

    • Offering benefits that make nursing a more sustainable career path, including access to mental health programs like crisis hotlines that offer one-on-one counseling, programs that support long-term mental and physical well-being, and flexible scheduling options
    • Destigmatizing mental health issues by creating a culture that helps nurses feel more comfortable being open about any mental health challenges they are facing—especially with they are directly related to their job
    • Transitioning to transformational engagement by providing better training for nurse managers that coach them to encourage and facilitate helpful discussions about nurses' career goals, well-being, and overall contribution instead of only discussing compensation, scheduling, and daily tasks

    "While the COVID-19 pandemic looks different in 2022 than it did in previous years, its impacts on the nursing profession will reverberate for years to come," Trusted Health wrote in a news release. "Our nurses have borne the brunt of much heaviness these past two years and the weight of these efforts is showing." (Adams, MedCity News, 7/20; Trusted Health news release, 7/20; 2022 "Frontline Nurse Mental Health & Well-Being" report, 7/20)

    Three strategies to build baseline emotional support for your frontline staff

    Breaking down health care's "I'm fine" culture

    workforce emotional supportIn the wake of Covid-19, health care organizations must commit to providing targeted baseline emotional support for the three types of emotionally charged scenarios that health care employees are likely to encounter in their careers: trauma and grief, moral distress, and compassion fatigue.

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