Worrying level of burnout among nurses and midwives

New research by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has found that 97% of nurses and midwives believe that COVID-19 has had a negative psychological impact on the profession.

The ‘Psychological Impact of COVID-19 on Nurses and Midwives in Ireland survey’- carried out between April and July 2021 gained an understanding of the psychological impact of COVID-19 on nurses and midwives in Ireland with over 1,905 nurses and midwives responding to the survey.

Commenting on the findings, INMO Head of Education and Professional Development, Steve Pitman said: “This survey paints a bleak picture of how emotionally and physically taxing COVID-19 has been on our nurses and midwives right across the country.”

According to the survey, 62% of the members who responded to the survey indicated that they had cared for patients that died as a result of COVID-19. Meanwhile nurses and midwives deal with and care for dying patients normally, the level of death in this short period far exceeded previous levels in circumstances that were far from ideal in many instances.

COVID-19 has been mentally taxing on nurses with 90% facing mental exhaustion, and the survey confirms 68% are now considering leaving profession as a consequence of the pandemic.

Most respondents also reported trouble sleeping and high levels of stress and worry. More than half are stressed about spreading virus to household, while one in five had contracted COVID, of which more than 56% had long term effects.

“Nurses and midwives have faced an unprecedented increase in workload demands resulting directly or indirectly from the pandemic. Coupled with caring for patients with the virus, witnessing the physical and emotional effects on patients, families and loved ones has taken a psychological toll. The vast majority of our members are now telling us they’re mentally and emotionally exhausted, and this is going to have an impact on their safety and the safety of their patients.

“The INMO has provided mental health supports for members through an online digital mental health support hub, free counselling help line and emergency funding through the INMO benevolent fund,  but it is clear that the State must provide more practical resources and mental health supports  for nurses and midwives, recovery must be prioritised. The HSE must allocate adequate resources to help staff deal with the emotional trauma caused by COVID-19.”

INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha added: “We can’t ignore the fact that two-thirds of nurses and midwives tell us they considered leaving the profession due to the impact of COVID-19.

“Before COVID-19 landed on our shores, we already sounded the alarm that the recruitment and retention of nurses and midwives was going to be something that Government and HSE needed to focus on.

Ms Ní Sheaghdha says that effort is needed to ensure that the predictions contained within the survey do not become a reality. “We must immediately put measures in place to support our workforce. Recovery must be a national priority, as this workforce make up a third of the total workforce.

“Nurses and midwives have been at work in a hazardous environment without reprieve for over eighteen months. They must gain relief from the constant overcrowding work situations faced on a daily basis, and fast tracked clinical supportive measures must be put in place. Occupational health services are simply not available nationwide and many members report long waiting times for an appointment.

“Over the coming weeks we need to see planned funding for the implementation of safe staffing across the health service, and measures to reduce pressure on hospitals. Next week’s Budget and the subsequent HSE Winter Plan must make it clear how the Government plans to ensure that safe staffing is a priority.”