Prioritizing the Mental Health and Well-Being of your Nursing Staff
May 04, 2022
During the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health across the United States among healthcare staff has taken a significant toll during the last few years. Healthcare facilities have seen increases in the high amount of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and other mental health concerns among their staff. Nurse managers are now seeing the negative effect COVID-19 had on the nation's mental health—specifically those on the front lines trying to combat the virus.
The conditions healthcare workers face have been compared to a war zone, as they directly witness the effects of the pandemics spread throughout communities across the nation. Healthcare executives must provide the necessary resources to help healthcare workers cope with their mental health battles due to the overwhelming stress of COVID-19. For mental health awareness month, Avant Healthcare Professionals provides tips on how nurse managers can better take care of their nurse's mental health.
COVID-19 Impact on Nursing Staff
As COVID-19 continues to affect healthcare systems nationwide, it is essential to learn how the pandemic has also impacted the overall healthcare experience for nurses. The pandemic has amplified and highlighted nurses' critical role in our healthcare system. Now more than ever, it is harder to attract healthcare professionals and make them stay in their positions. According to the 2022 Trends in Nurse Staffing Study, 73% of healthcare executives stated that COVID-19 would have a long-term impact on their nurses with the loss of bedside nurses to other careers. Clinical burnout and mental health problems were already issues in the nursing profession, and now due to COVID-19, the cases have dramatically increased.
Nurses have the difficult task of seeing many patients lose their lives to the COVID-19 virus and are pushed to their breaking points with record-breaking patients checking into hospitals daily. High turnover rates and jobs with no one to fill them are the most significant issues for healthcare executives. An option that some hospitals have turned to is working with nurse staffing agencies such as Avant Healthcare Professionals to hire international nurses. International nurses are contracted for two-to-three-year assignments at a hospital for rates less than travel nurse rates and allowing for more stability and stress relief among nursing staff.
Incoming nursing graduates and those in nursing school are also greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although more nursing faculty and educators are needed to assist and train new nurses to keep up with this overwhelming growth, they, unfortunately, are not available. Many have either moved on from the profession or retired early due to the high-stress situations COVID-19 put them in. The high turnover has caused newly graduated RN onboarding to be extremely limited in facilities across the country.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses who were overworked in early 2020 continue to experience significant trauma. The traumas can come in the form of excessive working hours, negative patient interactions, and limited resources to help ease the burden of their workloads. Nurses should feel they have a support system among their nursing staff, especially their managers.
Causes of Mental Health Deterioration for Nurses
Multiple issues have impacted the overall well-being and mental health of nurses. On top of their priorities and working one of the most mentally demanding jobs, here are the most common causes of mental health issues in nursing staff:
- High turnover rates
- Lack of staff resources
- An excessive amount of patients
- Emotional strain
- Limited time with nurse executives
Ways Nurse Managers can Prevent Burnout and Promote Mental Health
Nurse managers must have open conversations with their staff about their mental health struggles and how overwhelmed they are feeling. Nurses should have information about coping skills and treatment for anxiety, especially in high-stress situations. There are many disorders nurses can face during their time on the job that can be onset due to the overwhelming burden of their workload. They can suffer from anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health disorders.
Having open conversations about these disorders will make nursing staff feel safer discussing their mental health struggles. Healthcare organizations should provide medical coverage and resources for their employees seeking treatment for their mental health battles.
Nurses should have healthy coping skills to let go of the negative impacts of COVID-19. The goal is that nurses will be able to reinvigorate their love of the nursing profession and the care of their patients by moving forward despite the uncertainties of the last year. For hospital staff to move forward from the impact of COVID-19, more awareness should be given to their mental states and overall wellbeing so they can provide quality patient care.
Tips on how to Improve Nurse's Mental Health
There are many things nurse executives can do to improve the mental health of their nursing staff.
Create open communication
Make sure your team knows that you are always available to sit down and speak with them. As a nurse manager, you should provide monthly meetings where you check in with your staff on their mental health and let them know you can talk to them whenever they need you. If they come to you, make sure you provide them with the resources to find someone to speak to if they need assistance with their mental health.
Provide zones for them to relax
A large number of work nurses need to complete daily can cause them overwhelming stress. Healthcare facilities should provide their nurses with the supplies to ensure nurses are well-rested, well-fed, and have some downtime. Breakout zones and cafeterias are perfect for nurses to decompress and relax during high-stress days.
Provide Wellness Resources for your staff
As a nurse manager, your nurses should have access to all the necessary resources and information to decide how to manage their mental health. They should have access to clinical experts to gain insights into how to better take care of their mental health and be the best nurse to their patients.
Reward them for reaching their personal and professional goals
It is crucial to make your staff feel appreciated, especially during these times when a lot of their work seems to be going unnoticed. Make sure you get to know more than just their name. They should feel as though they are part of the team and are a quality member of the nursing staff. It is essential to say often "thank you" to your team and encourage them to appreciate one another.
The Bottom Line
In May, Mental Health Awareness should be a top priority for nurse managers and your nursing staff. Nurse leaders oversee patient care across the country and should have open conversations on how to take care of their staff better. Acknowledging the potential of mental health disorders among nursing staff is vital for your staff to feel more secure regarding their mental hardships.
As COVID-19 continues to plague hospitals across the country, their mental health should be a priority. They will feel more comfortable discussing their mental health if their nurse managers introduce the conversation and provide them with a safe space to have these conversations.