Health care workers watch a procession of first responders drive past Royal Columbian Hospital with lights and sirens activated in a show of support for staff treating those affected by COVID-19, in New Westminster, B.C., on Thursday, April 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

As British Columbians were told to stay home at the height of COVID-19 starting in March, B.C. nurses were working on the front lines of pandemic and experiencing high levels of exhaustion, depression and anxiety, a new study has found.

A survey recently conducted by University of BC nursing researchers and the BC Nurses’ Union found that 60 per cent of the 3,676 nurses interviewed felt emotional exhaustion in June and July. That’s slightly up from the 56 per cent of nurses who reported similar impacts in a survey from late 2019.

Forty-one per cent reported that they suffered from depression, up from 31 per cent reported in 2019. Thirty-eight per cent said they experienced anxiety, compared to 28 per cent last year.

ALSO READ: In a pandemic, those on the front lines face unique mental health challenges

The findings also show the toll exacted by COVID-19 on nurses’ personal lives, with 86 per cent reporting they are extremely concerned about bringing the virus home and 80 per cent fearing they will contract COVID-19 at work.

Farinaz Havaei, an assistant professor at the UBC school of nursing, said that although the findings are preliminary, the researchers involved are noticing broad trends of worsening mental health among frontline nurses in the province.

“As a nurse and a researcher, I’m very concerned to see more nurses reporting higher levels of poor mental health, which can directly affect their ability to provide effective care, if not resolved in a timely manner,” Havaei said in a news release.

The key findings are based on responses from nurses in acute care, community care and long-term care. The survey also looked at nurses’ COVID-19 training, workplace violence and nurses’ coping mechanisms.

Additionally, the survey looked into challenges with the province’s pandemic response early on. According to survey results, 41 per cent of respondents rated the transparency of organizational decisions related to the pandemic as poor or failing. Another 27 per ­­cent said COVID-19 related protocols and policies changed daily, if not multiple times a day.

In a statement, nurses’ union president Christine Sorensen said the study findings reflects the personal and professional sacrifices nurses have made in the past several months.

“It highlights the mental health challenges facing nurses and all health-care workers as they brace for a COVID-19 surge this fall.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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