Supporting Nurses’ Psychological and Mental Health

An editorial by Jill Mabel and Jackie Bridges published on 22 April 2020 in Journal of Clinical Nursing explores the evidence regarding supporting nurses’ psychological and mental health during #COVID19.

Q: Why nurses?
A: Nurses are at the bedside 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In previous pandemics/epidemics nurses experienced more occupational stress and resultant distress when compared to other professions.

And – little known fact – even when there isn’t a pandemic to deal with, nurses are more prone to suicide than most employed people. The authors are in the UK, but it’s the same in Australia.

Although there are lessons to be learned from SARS, MERS and Ebola, overall the evidence for supporting nurses’ psychological and mental health wellbeing during a pandemic is not very strong.

That disclaimer out of the way, here comes my interpretation of the key points from the paper:

1. Keep Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in Mind.
Starting at the base isn’t basic. It’s essential.
Start with
– hydration
– nutrition
– rest and recovery
– shelter from the storm

2. Safety is vital.

For
#COVID19 that means that PPE is a non-negotiable need (don’t take my word for it, see Maslow’s hierarchy above).

3. Prioritise wellbeing.
Organisations that ask nurses to care for people who are #COVID19 suspected/positive should ensure that nurse wellbeing is a priority.
Q: How?
A: Insist on breaks, and – this often goes against the nursing culture/habits – make sure that nurses quarantine time for mutual support.
Q: Mutual support? What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?
A: meta4RN.com/footy

4. Individual Support PRN.
Individual support should be available for nurses too.
Q: What sort of support?
A: It’s not one size fits all. It depends on what step you’re on.

Self Portrait 26/04/20

On the lower steps, support via trusted, loving family and friends might be all that’s required. That, and being intentional about self care.

5. Self-Care.
If you’re getting stressed on the boss’s time, you should try to get de-stressed on the boss’s time too. It doesn’t have to take hours, you might be able to make regular snack-sized self-care part of your everyday nursing practice.

6. Positive Practice Environment.
Good communication, a collegial multidisciplinary team, creative and collective problem-solving,and working as a team can go a long way towards dampening anxiety.
There’s more than one kind of PPE.
Aim for a Positive Practice Environment.

7. Time Out.
Embed safe places in the workplace. Something like a NOvid room would do the trick.

8. Supportive Senior Staff.
Last, but not least, senior nurses and other people in the hospital hierarchy should make themselves more available and visible than ever.
Care goes in. Crap comes out.

End

That’s the summary of the key messages I took from the Journal of Clinical Nursing editorial. Check it out yourself via doi.org/10.1111/jocn.15307

Many thanks to Jackie Bridges (one of the paper’s authors) for giving positive feedback regarding the original Twitter thread. This blog post is a replica of that thread, just with most typos corrected.

Thanks for reading. As always you’re welcome to leave feedback and/or add your own ideas in the comments section below.

Paul McNamara, 26 April 2020

Short URL: meta4RN.com/COVID19

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