Prioritizing Nurses’ Mental Health
The COVID-19 crisis is pushing nurses to the limit of their mental and physical health. Trusted Health recently conducted a survey of more than 1,400 nurses across all 50 states to shed new light on nurses’ mental well-being and perspectives right now. Nurses’ mental well-being has declined significantly, with a self-reported decrease of 30% in mental health since the crisis began. What’s worse, nearly 95% said they don’t feel the health care industry supports or prioritizes their mental well-being at a systemic level.
Although basic counseling services have been available to nurses via the Employee Assistance Program, they are not always sufficient for those working in challenging, high-stress environments such as ICUs and ERs. It should not be the responsibility of nurses to fix the system and take care of themselves during this mental health crisis. Universities, hospitals and the larger health care system need to do more to properly prepare students for the mental hurdles work poses day in and day out.
There are some positive signs that meaningful change is on the horizon, and that the industry is taking these risks seriously, working to create a better model to help care for and protect the mental health and well-being of nurses—both now and in the future. Over the past several weeks, we have started to see a new peer-to-peer model of mental and emotional support emerge that demonstrates tremendous promise. Organizations like the American Nurses Association (ANA) and The Physician Hotline are offering medical workers personalized, hands-on programs to better address the COVID-19-related mental health impact of their work.
A peer-to-peer model can improve practicing nurses’ health and reduce stress, while simultaneously offering nurse practitioner students the opportunity to build their mental health education and get an honest look at the realities of their new workplace. Today, while many nursing students are concerned about how they will be able to reach the number of required clinical hours to complete their certifications, these support lines offer an additional opportunity to meet those requirements while providing a valuable service.
Undergraduate and graduate programs that incorporate skill building and stress management into their curriculums early on can better arm our nurses with the proper tools and coping strategies needed to thrive. And with this foundation, nurses can continue to expand their skills throughout their career with crisis support, mindfulness training and mental health courses.