Study finds 47% of US critical care nurses at risk of PTSD

nurse PTSD, ICU
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When it comes to facing the COVID pandemic, healthcare professionals were at the frontline and new research suggests that 47% of critical care nurses are at risk of PTSD

Dr Guttormson, associate professor, College of Nursing, Marquette University, pulled together a team to figure out how COVID-19 impacted the mental health of ICU nurses. The team conducted a survey on burnout, moral distress, depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress symptoms, on nurses who worked in ICU between October and December 2020.

Dr Guttormson said: “It is vitally important that we allow space and time for critical care nurses to share their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and that this support not stop when the pandemic is over.”

A separate study on healthcare workers found that 50% of emergency responders have atleast one symptom of PTSD. 

When it comes to healthcare workers, the shadow pandemic unfolding under the hospitalisations and deaths is the mental health of those who are dealing with them.

The findings suggest mental health epidemic for nurses

The team surveyed 488 US-based critical care nurses. They found that 29% were assigned to a COVID unit, as opposed to their normal ICU. A further 68% had to deal with a shortage of PPE equipment. In general, the nurses reported higher levels of “moral distress and burnout” than ICU nurses normally did, before the COVID pandemic.

They reported higher levels of anxiety and depression than reported in the general population. Critical care nurses also were at high risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with 47% at risk for already having PTSD from the events of 2020.

This figure is higher than recent veterans or patients who received traumatic injuries.

The symptoms of moderate to severe depression was 44.6% and then 31% reported similar levels of anxiety.

Dr Guttormson further commented: “Based on these results, the pandemic will have long-term repercussions for critical care nurses and may result in nurses leaving critical care or the nursing profession.”


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