‘Mass exodus’ from ICUs
Australian hospitals are experiencing a “mass exodus” of experienced ICU nurses, the Australian College of Critical Care Nurses (ACCCN) has warned.
“They are not taking sick leave or annual leave, they are working extra hours, and at the end of all this we are seeing lots of senior people, who have worked in intensive care for years, leaving ICUs at a time when they are so valued, and we need them so much,” the college’s chief executive, Rand Butcher, told The Guardian news site.
Sydney ICU nurse Michelle Rosentreter oversaw a shift when a nurse collapsed shortly after starting work.
“She had been feeling unwell but came to work because she didn’t have any sick leave,” Michelle said.
“We sent her to Emergency, and she was diagnosed with viral endocarditis.
“It is appalling that hospital administrators are sending out letters warning nurses their sick leave is becoming excessive, while more and more nurses are presenting to Emergency with acute and chronic issues.
“This is the real face of burnout.”
After almost 20 years of nursing – 10 as an ICU nurse – Michelle had her own frightening experience of burnout in September.
“I was working a night shift looking after a ventilated patient and I felt sicker and sicker,” she said.
“I found I couldn’t raise my arms, or move them from the elbows up, and the pain was excruciating.
“I assumed it was dehydration, took Panadol, and managed to drive myself home, where the pain hit my chest.
“I had to call an ambulance and be taken to Emergency, was given pain relief and anti-inflammatories, and after a couple of months seeing specialists, I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, resulting from chronic fatigue and stress.
“The way to manage that is with a regular routine and good sleep, so for 2022, I’ve reduced my nursing hours and will be working in a non-clinical role three days a week.
“I’m hoping this will help me balance my health and avoid flare-ups.
“I love my job as an ICU nurse, but I have to find a way to look after myself.”