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Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is exacting a heavy mental and emotional toll on health professionals in all settings.
This stark reality has been laid bare by our latest survey , in which a third of respondents described their current mental health as “bad” or “very bad”. In addition, 90% said they were more anxious than before the outbreak and 87% were more stressed, with fears about contracting the virus and a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) high on the list of reasons.
“We want ministers to ensure the mental health of nursing staff is high on the agenda and that promises do not quickly fade once we are past the peak”
These are alarming statistics and should ram home the importance of supporting nurses’ mental health and wellbeing. Stress and burnout were already significant problems in the nursing workforce, driven by chronic underlying problems like insufficient staffing and low pay.
This is why Nursing Times has launched Covid-19: Are You OK?, a campaign to monitor and raise awareness of the pandemic’s impact on nurses’ mental health, during and after the immediate crisis. We want to ensure that employers, while grappling with the complex logistics and practicalities, also look after their staff. We want ministers to ensure the mental health of nursing staff is high on the agenda and that promises do not quickly fade once we are past the peak.
Those working in critical care are, most immediately, at risk of burnout due to working long hours, day after day, and nursing very sick patients from the confines of hot, uncomfortable, cumbersome PPE – assuming it is, by now, available to them. But all nursing staff are at risk, in particular those returning to practice, those redeployed to unfamiliar settings and students opting to help out via clinical placements.
There is a real risk of staff experiencing longer-term issues as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder, once they come to terms with what they have endured. And there are the challenges faced by many who must live in isolation away from friends and family, and the sad reality that some may have lost colleagues to Covid-19.
You are facing a challenge unlike any in living memory. We aim to support you through it and beyond, to shine a light on your mental health and wellbeing by encouraging employers, managers and colleagues to routinely ask “Are You OK?”. To find out more about the campaign, visit nursingtimes.net/areyouok. There you will find news, views, useful resources and ways to support the campaign.