Nursing Review Issue 3 May-June 2022 - Page 6

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Taking its toll

Nurses ’ mental health declining during the second year of the pandemic .
By Elise Hartevelt

Paramedics and nurses reported poorer mental health and higher levels of social isolation than other health care workers during the pandemic , a new study has found .

The pandemic has impacted nurses heavily , leading to higher chances of psychological stress such as burnout .
A multidisciplinary group of chief Investigators led by Professor Karin Leder and Dr Sarah McGuinness from the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine , Monash University , aimed to examine the impacts of COVID-19 by surveying over a thousand healthcare workers .
“ Nearly a quarter of respondents experienced moderate-to-severe depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms , and approximately one in seven had symptoms of moderate-severe anxiety at this time ,” the authors said .
“ Nurses and paramedics generally reported a higher prevalence of psychological symptoms than doctors and allied health professionals .
“ And in the 18 months since the start of the pandemic almost half of the nurses had considered leaving their profession .”
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Media reporting suggests that chronic workforce shortages , COVID-19 restrictions and prolonged patient-contact time may have contributed to what nurses and paramedics are experiencing .
Leder and McGuinness ’ s research found there has been an increased need to provide emotional support to patients and residents due to visitor restrictions .
Close to half of the health care workers surveyed also encountered increased social isolation , with family and friends avoiding contact since they were working in a high-risk setting .
“ Interviews [ with the healthcare workers ] highlighted the difficulties of working in a complex , ever-changing environment , concerns about the care being provided to patients , and feelings of disconnection ,” Leder and McGuinness said .
“ But they also revealed positive messages related to renewed perspective and a sense of pride from rising to emerging challenges .”
One-third of the health care workers were optimistic about the future and just over half of respondents felt that their organisation responded to their concerns .
“ Our survey ’ s results echo findings from other earlier studies performed in 2020 that demonstrated similar psychological impacts on health care workers , suggesting a minimal worsening of psychological
“ Nearly a quarter of respondents experienced moderate-to-severe depression and posttraumatic stress symptoms .
distress in the first 18 months of the pandemic ,” Leder and McGuinness said .
“ However , as the pandemic has progressed , and case numbers have increased , we anticipate that the psychological impacts of the pandemic on HCWs may worsen , and our study will continue 6-monthly monitoring of participants .”
The authors argue that understanding the state of mental health in health care workers is essential to ensure their wellbeing and that their work is psychologically sustainable .
Leder and McGuinness said that it ’ s vital for health care workers to be able to voice concerns and have these concerns acted on by their organisation .
“ We are currently writing up findings from qualitative research assessing health care workers ’ perceptions of organisational responses and suggestions for how the healthcare sector should respond , and will be publishing these in a separate manuscript .” ■