Bandaids on bleeding stumps
The pandemic has brought with it a steep rise in people experiencing mental health issues. As a result, public mental health services are being flooded. Even before COVID-19, mental health nurses were struggling to keep up – but now, we are drowning.
We are being forced to push people out of the units faster and faster, to make space for the next person who needs a bed. Even if this means discharging people to unsafe environments that contributed to their mental health issues, or if they are still mentally unwell and a risk to themselves or others.
Nurses are leaving mental health en masse, and as a result mental health units are chronically understaffed. Those of us who stayed are working with increasingly unsustainable workloads, and are expected to do the same amount of work each shift with fewer nurses.
We can no longer guarantee safety for our patients or ourselves, with incidences of aggression becoming not just daily but on every shift.
We feel like we are failing every single patient who comes onto our wards. They came to get help, to find a way to get better. But with things the way they are, mental health nurses have become, at best, bandaids on bleeding stumps, and at worst we are just working in a system that causes harm. It’s become commonplace that when I come home from work – late yet again because I put patient care before my personal time – I break down in tears from stress and the knowledge that I came into mental health nursing to help, and it never feels like I’m doing that anymore.
Aislynn Kearney, RN