Around 65% of nurses who have recovered from Covid-19 are still experiencing post-viral fatigue and many continue to report symptoms, according to a survey carried out by a nursing union in Ireland.
The majority of nurses who responded to the survey reported a negative impact on their mental health over the past few months, regardless of whether had contracted coronavirus or not.
“Many of our members are reporting that despite recovery, they are still facing exhaustion”
Phil Ní Sheaghdha
Just over 7,000 nurses and midwives responded to Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) membership survey, with 9.2% saying they had tested positive for Covid-19 at some point.
Of the 545 respondents who had recovered from the virus, 91% stated they continued to experience symptoms, including headaches and breathing problems, as well as mental health difficulties.
Other post-viral symptoms cited by respondents included anxiety, trouble concentrating or “brain fog”, dizziness or light headedness, recurring fever and palpitations.
In addition, 81% of all 7,068 nurses and midwives surveyed said that working in the health service during the pandemic substantially or somewhat negatively impacted on their mental health.
In May, Nursing Times launched the Covid-19: Are You OK? campaign to highlight the mental health pressures and needs of nurses during and after the coronavirus pandemic.
Our survey for the campaign found that 33% of respondents rated their overall mental health and wellbeing as “bad” or “very bad” and 50% described themselves as “a lot” more anxious or stressed.
Further surveys carried out by a raft of organisations in the UK, including charities, academics, unions and staffing agencies, have identified similar mental health and wellbeing themes.
The INMO will present their findings to the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 response this morning, highlighting the importance of safe staffing over the coming months.
INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: “Fatigue is a major risk to patient and staff safety. Many of our members are reporting that despite recovery, they are still facing exhaustion.
“We urgently need a clear plan to ramp up health service capacity before winter hits”
Phil Ní Sheaghdha
She said: “The impacts of this virus can be long-lasting, so nurses and midwives returning to work after recovery are going to need support. For many, there will be a long road to full recovery.
“They will also need certainty that past mistakes are being corrected,” noted Ms Ní Sheaghdha.
“The government should empower the Health and Safety Authority to investigate cases,” she said, in reference to the national body in Ireland with responsibility for occupational health and safety.
“As winter approaches, frontline staff face a toxic combination of fatigue and understaffing. Safe staffing levels are the only way to ensure that our health service is not overwhelmed,” she said.
She added: “We urgently need a clear plan to ramp up health service capacity before winter hits.”
Survey summary: Ongoing symptoms reported by nurses:
- Fatigue – 65%
- Nausea – 4%
- Breathing/respiratory problems – 21%
- Headaches – 22%
- Mental health difficulties such as stress or anxiety – 33%
- Chest pain – 10%
- Other – 40%