Your eyes are fluttering somewhere between half-awake and utter boredom. The beige walls are closing in. As the presenter once again uses the phrase “during these unprecedented times”, you vow to “go to the bathroom” and not come back.
You are sick and tired of HR-mandated “mental health training,” and you’re pretty sure you’d rather be literally anywhere but sitting in that chair.
You know your mental health is important, but there has to be a better way to go about dealing with it. This guide will help you find that better way. And don’t worry, we won’t talk about “unprecedented times” at all.
Keep reading to find out the main issues affecting nurses’ mental health and the top ways you can nurture your mental health.
Table of Contents
- 4 Current Issues Affecting Mental Health in Nursing Today
- Nurses Mental Health Support: 8 Practical Ways to Nurture Mental Health in the Nursing Community
- Trusted Nurse Staffing: Working With Travel Nurses to Unlock a World of Possibilities
4 Current Issues Affecting Mental Health in Nursing Today
Nursing and mental health go hand in hand, and understanding what affects a nurse’s mental health can be complicated.
While personal concerns and life struggles will always be a factor in someone’s mental health, there are four main current issues affecting mental health in nursing today.
COVID-19 was once a distant concept that most of us never thought would affect us.
Now, Covid is a household word.
For nurses who have spent the last two and a half years working on the frontlines of the pandemic, Covid has taken its toll.
Facilities that do not take the time to improve nurses’ working conditions, in light of COVID-19, often have nurses that experience more mental health struggles.
#2: Excessive Workloads
As more nurses leave the industry due to burnout, vaccine mandates, and other factors, the nurses left behind find themselves with even larger workloads.
For many, the excessive amount of things that need to be done is overwhelming and leaves them feeling exhausted and burned out.
#3: Workplace Bullying
While you might have thought you left bullying in sixth grade, sadly, bullying exists in the nursing world, too. In some circles, it is a sort of “rite of passage” or hazing.
In a field where stress is high and emotions run higher, bullying is often a result of fried nerves.
Whether it be harsh words, gossiping, or pranking, bullying is, unfortunately, alive and well within the nursing world, and it leaves many nurses feeling drained and hurt.
#4: Workplace Cultures That Are Unsupportive of Personal Well-Being
It seems that everyone these days is calling out toxic work environments.
Sadly, hospitals and other nursing facilities are not immune to toxicity. For nurses who are struggling with their mental health, working in an environment that does not support them can be an added burden.
Many facilities urge nurses to work overtime and don’t seem to support their needs for personal time and well-being.
This pressure often leaves nurses feeling as if they never give enough, even though they have given more than they thought they could.
Nurses Mental Health Support: 8 Practical Ways to Nurture Mental Health in the Nursing Community
Is the mental health of nurses a concern? Yes. And it needs to be taken seriously.
There are several ways that both nurses and employers can work to help support nurses’ mental health.
Here are the top eight practical ways to support the mental and emotional health of nurses.
#1: Remove the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health
For way too long, mental health has been hidden behind the curtain of the taboo. No one talked about it, and no one wanted to admit when they were struggling.
Slowly, that seems to be shifting. Social media influencers, celebrities, and everyday people have begun having conversations about mental health, and there is much less shame for those who struggle than there used to be.
But that doesn’t mean the stigma is forever buried.
Despite the push to normalize mental health struggles, some nurses still find it difficult to speak up and admit when they aren’t doing well.
The first way to nurture mental health among nurses is to remove the stigma surrounding it.
Struggling with mental health issues is not something to be ashamed of.
#2: Recognize the Trauma Caused by COVID-19
One of the biggest current issues affecting mental health in nursing today is Covid-19.
Covid-19 left virtually no one unaffected. For the past two and a half years, the media has been full of stories from the frontlines of the pandemic. For nurses working day in, day out with Covid patients, the trauma is real and persistent.
For those who worked — and continue to work — with Covid patients, the stress and pain can be overwhelming.
Covid has taken far too many lives, and it simply keeps going.
There is a misconception that trauma stems only from involvement in or witnessing extreme or violent events. And while these types of events certainly cause trauma, living through life-altering circumstances such as the Covid-19 pandemic can also be a huge source of equally debilitating trauma.
While the whole world has been affected by the pandemic, nurses have caught the brunt of it. During the past few years, nurses have faced:
- Shortages of safety supplies
- Long hours
- Distance from family and friends
- Loss of patients
- Loss of jobs and coworkers
- Judgment from the media and public
- Seemingly never-ending streams of ill people
- Much, much more
To say that Covid-19 has severely traumatized many nurses would be a massive understatement.
Supporting the mental and emotional health of nurses must include acknowledging the trauma caused by the global pandemic.
#3: Conduct Mental Health Screenings
Nurses already know the importance of mental health screenings. After all, they perform them on patients all the time.
But what about nurses? Is anyone checking in with them to make sure they are in a good place mentally? Unfortunately, in most cases, the answer is a resounding “no”.
One way to provide nurses with mental health support is to conduct routine mental health screenings.
Mental health screenings involve a range of things including, but not limited to:
- Physical evaluation from a medical doctor
- A small amount of blood work
- Specific questions from a mental health practitioner
- Paper questionnaires
Mental health screenings can help hospitals and other facilities know how to best support their nurses and can help nurses know how to care for themselves.
#4: Encourage the Use of Mental Health Apps and Virtual Support
In this digital age, there are countless mental health resources available for nurses. From apps to virtual support services, care is available at your literal fingertips.
Apps such as BetterHelp and Cerebral can help nurses find access to therapy and even medication.
Apps like Calm and Headspace offer breathing exercises and meditations to help calm anxious minds.
Not sure which resource best fits your needs? PsyberGuide offers breakdowns of each resource and can help you find the one that is right for you.
Some of these services even offer business subscriptions so companies can purchase access for their employees.
One great way to encourage the emotional health of nurses is to promote utilizing these types of resources.
#5: Recognize the Signs of Burnout
Burnout has become a bit of a buzzword as of late. But what are the signs of burnout among nurses?
For nurses, burnout manifests in various ways, but some common ones include:
- Perpetual tiredness — No matter how much sleep you get, you can’t seem to catch up, and you find yourself dozing off at inopportune times.
- Dreading going to work — It is normal to not want to go back to work after an especially rough day, but if you find yourself consistently dreading going to work or you spend your whole shift wishing you were somewhere else, you might be dealing with burnout.
- Feeling a lack of compassion or feeling insensitive — As a nurse, you are used to showing and feeling compassion. But if you find yourself struggling to emotionally connect with your patients, burnout could be to blame.
- Frequent illness — Burnout manifests itself in many physical ways including frequent illnesses. That cold that just won’t budge? The constant gastrointestinal issues you are battling? Burnout may be the culprit.
If you find yourself experiencing burnout, there are a few things you can do:
- Take a break — Take some time off and focus on yourself. Sleep in, read some books, or catch up on your favorite TV show — do things that you find restful and restoring.
- Drop your work hours to part-time — If you have been working full-time for a while and are feeling burned out, dropping to part-time might be an effective way to lessen your stress while still working.
- Change up your environment — Sometimes you just need a change of pace. Starting part-time travel nursing could be a good solution. Travel nursing allows you more flexibility and freedom. Getting out of your daily routine and typical surroundings can help you move past burnout.
#6: Implement Relational Leadership
If you have the power to create change on a larger scale within your facility or department, consider implementing relational leadership.
Relational leadership relies on relationships and mutual respect and care. It creates an atmosphere where each individual knows that they are heard and valued. With a focus on …
- Ethical behaviors, and
- Purposeful orientation
… relational leadership can help create an environment that encourages better mental health.
#7: Encourage Self-Care
Encouraging self-care can go a long way in helping nurses care for their mental health and avoid burnout.
Self-care is another one of those popular words these days.
We’ve all seen it on Instagram — a serene-looking woman with a mud mask, sprawled in a hot tub overlooking the beach, sipping rosé, surrounded by candles. A soft voice rambling about “pausing and taking time” filters through your speakers while the caption paints a lovely picture of serenity and rest amidst the chaos of the world. At the bottom of the caption, you are sure to find “#selfcare”.
But self-care is about way more than wine and bubble baths.
Self-care is about doing what helps you and what soothes your soul, and it might not look as pretty as the Gram makes it out to be.
There are some unique methods of self-care out there that you might find incredibly helpful. For instance:
- Taking a day and turning off your phone so you can focus on being present with yourself can help to reduce stress and give you time to reconnect with yourself.
- Finding a fairly soundproof space and letting out a massive scream can help you recenter and release some of the pent-up tension you feel.
- Reclaim your hand washing routine as a moment for self-care. During those 20-30 seconds, repeat a mantra, pray, or ground yourself. This can help break any stress cycle you might be in.
- If you are religious or spiritual, taking time to pray or meditate might help you calm down and release some tension.
- Creating rituals, such as a nightly cup of tea or a slow walk each morning, can help bring stability.
- Take frequent short breaks for breathing. Just a few seconds to take a couple of deep breaths can help you refocus and get out of your stress patterns.
#8: Provide Mental Health Resources
No matter how much employers encourage self-care or mandate mental health screenings, some nurses will need additional support and that is okay.
A great way to support nurses’ mental health is to provide mental health resources.
There are countless online resources, from support groups to blogs, to financial aid.
If you are an administrator, consider taking some time to create a list of applicable resources to share with your staff. You can include some of the apps and websites mentioned in this article as well as other resources you might find.
You might also consider offering therapy, app subscriptions, or other resources as part of your benefits package. Remember, nurses can only give so much, and many are running on empty. Caring for your nurses is just as important as caring for your patients.
If you are a nurse struggling with your mental health, remember there is nothing wrong with you. You are not failing to live up to the right standard. You are still a great nurse. Needing support doesn’t lessen your worth.
If your employer does not provide you with resources, look into them for yourself. Taking charge of your own mental health can be an important step in healing.
If you find yourself in crisis, there are several resources available immediately:
- If you are battling thoughts of harming yourself, you can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- The SAMHSA offers a national crisis helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
- The SAMHSA also offers a disaster distress helpline at 1-800-985-5990.
Trusted Nurse Staffing: Working With Travel Nurses to Unlock a World of Possibilities
Trusted Nurse Staffing takes the mental health of our nurses seriously. We offer support, high wages, and great benefits, designed to allow you to live a healthy lifestyle while helping your patients.
We know that you cannot pour from an empty cup, so we make it our mission to provide you with the benefits and resources you need to ensure that you are as healthy as you can be.
If you are looking to make the switch to travel nursing and you want to work with a company that has your back and is devoted to helping you succeed, Trusted Nurse Staffing is here for you.
Fill out your profile today to get started.