The effects of COVID on HCWs’ Mental Health | Episode 029

Episode summary introduction:

The International Council of Nurses is emphasizing the increase of anxiety and stress for nurses working during the Covid-19 crisis in countries around the world. Healthcare providers are at high risk for, full-blown stress response syndromes, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic illness and burnout according to the International Council of Nurses. We have to keep talking about nurses and their mental health to make sure that we are all taking care of ourselves and one another.

Topic 1:

More nurses are experiencing depression and anxiety, caused by their jobs. Depression affects 9% of everyday citizens, but 18% of nurses experience symptoms of depression. Another study found the rate of depression in nurses at about 41%. There is limited data on this, accounting for the wide discrepancies.

Topic 2:

The burn out rate for nurses is skyrocketing. Nearly 30% of new graduates leave the profession within 2 years. Nurses are frequently exposed to suffering and death, unreasonably demanding patients/families, and must also deal with ethical issues that cause moral distress. Nurses are also known to be at high risk: they face many of the same stressors as doctors, including heavy workloads, work-family conflicts, lack of social support, and frequent exposure to illness and suffering.

Topic 3:

Health-care workers (HCWs) have worked extremely long hours in high-pressure environments while possibly having been exposed to trauma and/or faced moral dilemmas relating to challenges in the delivery of high-quality care, with a lack of experience or PPE, or as a result of low staffing levels. During this pandemic chances are likely to increase the risk of mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Scientific literature on the psychological consequences of exposure to trauma shows that the two risk factors

These stressors might be directly related to the death of a family member or co-worker

and/or relationship difficulties.

Topic 4:

A small 1996 study of 30 nurses and 60 nursing students showed that nurses who had less emotional expression were at an increased risk of depression, which can lead to suicidal ideation. Nurses were substantially more likely than others to take their own lives.


There are several interventions that can help HCWs. One of these interventions is that staff also need to receive human support: be it a family member or a colleague in a buddy-system, somebody eventually must be there. Systems like “check you, check two” (where each staff member checks in on themselves and two colleagues a day) are proven to be helpful.


Call to action:


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration website

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255)

The Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990)

Physician Support Line (1-888-409-0141)

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