COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety are all conditions nurses were increasingly going through, even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
That’s according to a new study by Ohio State University, which found that critical care nurses in poor physical and mental health reported more medical errors than nurses in better health.
“I pushed down my emotions so long, and kind of brushed them off, and when it finally started causing burnout, it would affect my sleep, and my home life, my life outside of work, as well as my life at work,” said Jessica Curtisi, a critical care nurse with Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Curtisi said experiencing the loss of so many patients due to COVID-19, on top of the stress she went through daily, only made her not want to go to work, a feeling shared by other staff as well.
“We’re running on adrenaline for a period of time, and then we’ve been caring for critically ill COVID patients for over a year now, so that adrenaline ran out long ago,” said Hunter Jefferis, a critical care nurse manager with Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.
In fact, a nationwide survey found that over 60 percent of critical care nurses reported their physical health as poor, and over 50 percent reported their mental health as the same. Those who reported worse health had between a 31 percent to 62 percent higher chance of making medical errors.
“A lot of nurses like 12-hour shifts, but we have a body of evidence to show they’re not healthy for nurses nor healthcare quality and safety,” said Bernadette Melnyk, chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing at OSU.
Melnyk said the school has been offering support programs to nurses such as counseling, employee assistance, and mental health resources, but she adds that more needs to be done at hospital systems around the nation, especially when it comes to staffing and shift management.
Melnyk said patients can help in increasing nurse’s mental wellness, too.
“Gratitude is one of the simplest evidence-based practices, that if we all get into the habit of using daily, it would decrease our stress and improve mood,” she said.