Nurses at heightened stress


With infection levels increasing in the nursing workforce and continued abuse, the nurses world over are at a heightened psychological distress, according to data from the International Council of Nurses (ICN).

The ICN said that COVID-19 developed a unique and complex form of trauma with devastating consequences (both short and long terms) for individual nurses and healthcare systems they work in. The Council said that nurses reported of isolation from their families. They were also anxious about avoiding infecting their family members, the ICN said.

Increased working hours and lack of personal protective equipment increased stress levels.

The ICN is a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations.

They reported 2262 deaths till December 31, 2020. It noted that the American region accounted for more than 60 per cent of the deaths. The United States of America, Brazil and Mexico reported the highest number of deaths. However, the ICN said that the figures available until now could be underestimation as the actual fatalities of health care worker remained unknown because of the lack of a global systematic and standardised surveillance system.

ICN CEO Howard Catton said that they were witnessing a unique and complex occupational trauma. The Nurses are facing enormous mental health pressures leading to serious psychological distress, Catton said. The ICN said that more than 1.6 million healthcare workers were infected in 34 countries.

The Nurses Council believed that about ten per cent of all confirmed COVID-19 infections are among health workers.

Quoting various studies, the ICN stated that about half of the nurses reported moderate and high work burnout in the early phase of the pandemic in China. A recent survey in the US reported that 93 per cent of healthcare workers experienced stress and 76 per cent showed exhaustion and burnout. In an August 2020 survey by the American Nurses Association, over half of the nurses felt overwhelmed and 60 per cent said they had difficulty in sleeping. Spain reported that 80 per cent of nurses had anxiety and increasing burnout. In Brazil, 50per cent of the nurses reported anxiety and 25 per cent depression. More than half of the nurses reported burnout and 28 per cent showed depression in a national survey in Australia. The council said that the Japanese Nursing Association reported that nurses quit their jobs in about 15 per cent of hospitals across the country. About 20 per cent of them reported discrimination or prejudice.

Stating that the world was already a shortfall of 10 million of nurses, Catton said COVID-19 would affect the nursing workforce. The ICN chief said that the world would have a shortfall of 14 million nurses by 2030.


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