Nurse mental health can directly impact provider mental health and, eventually, patient care. Nurse/provider teamwork can suffer when one or the other is struggling. Poor mental health that results from overwork, lack of support, or a toxic culture can act as a contagion that infects an entire department or organization. The current staffing shortages facing hospitals nationwide stem partly from this issue.
New Survey Shows Modest Improvement
According to an article from Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), overall nurse mental health has improved since 2020. The information was taken from a 2023 frontline nurse mental health and well-being survey released by the travel nurse platform Trusted Health. The online survey included responses from more than 1,900 nurses.
The survey shows slight improvements since the pandemic. The average mental health rating for 2023 is 6.6, compared to 5.8 in 2022, 5.7 in 2021, and 5.4 in 2020. The rating scale is 1-10. The report also notes compassion fatigue (the feeling that one has no more empathy) has fallen by 27%. Suicidal ideation among nurses has also declined by 25%.
However, not all the news is good. More than half of nurses indicated they will seek opportunities outside direct patient care or even outside of healthcare within the next year, while some plan to retire. Some of the factors that can have a negative influence include staffing shortfalls (80%), patient assignments (55%), and unit or department culture (53%).
What Works to Improve Nurse Mental Health
Conversely, the report found that improved pay, culture, and how prepared they felt to perform their work positively had a positive impact.
Nurses who worked in facilities with a peer support program were twice as likely to rate their mental health as favorable compared to those who worked at hospitals without such programs. Benefits also weigh heavily. Of the nurses who reported having poor mental health, 92% worked at hospitals that didn’t offer benefits.
While we have seen modest improvements since the onset of the pandemic, there is still work to do. Facilities can play a role in reducing nurse attrition by investing in benefits, culture, and support programs. Failing to address mental health issues among nurses could exacerbate the problems facing already understaffed healthcare systems.
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