ICU nurses at greater risk of severe mental health issues due to COVID-19: study
Half of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) staff are likely to meet the threshold for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), problem drinking or severe anxiety as a result of experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, a study has shown.
A study conducted by the King’s College London has highlighted the serious mental health impacts that COVID-19 has had on the critical care workforce.
The researchers found the impacts to be most stark with ICU nurses, although several doctors and allied health staff studied also exhibited signs of mental ill health.
Of those study’s participants, 40% met the threshold for “probable” PTSD, 11% met the threshold for severe anxiety, and 7% met the threshold for problem drinking. Participants were also at greater risk of severe depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
These numbers are a cause of concern for staff performance and patient safety, particularly as COVID-19 cases continue to rise globally.
Professor Neil Greenberg, the study’s lead author, said that “the severity of symptoms we identified are highly likely to impair some ICU staff’s ability to provide high-quality care.”
“The high rate of mortality amongst COVID-19 patients admitted to ICU, coupled with difficulty in communication and providing adequate end-of-life support to patients, and their next of kin because of visiting restrictions, are very likely to have been highly challenging stressors for all staff working in ICUs,” he continued.
Professor Greenberg indicated that his team’s study should be a wake-up call for health managers and administrators to pay closer attention to the mental health of ICU staff.
A strategy “to protect staff mental health and decrease the risk of functional impairment” was needed, he said.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association is continuing its advocacy for safer workplaces, including an end to occupational violence and adequate provision of PPE. You can check out their campaign here.
Nurses and midwives experiencing mental ill health should contact Nurse and Midwife Support.