Nurses Mental Health During Covid-19: Nurses may themselves become patients due to trauma, depression of fighting Covid-19

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) is urging the government to pay attention to the International Council of Nurses’ latest report on mass trauma experienced by the global nursing workforce.

As the country battled the second wave of Covid-19, Denosa called on the government to pay special attention to the latest report by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) which highlighted mass trauma that was experienced by the global nursing workforce, including South African nurses, as they fought the pandemic, said Cassim Lekhoathi, the acting general secretary.

Denosa feared that, as the country was in the middle of the second wave and looked set for a third, it might not be long before all its health-care workers became patients themselves, due to the trauma, anxiety and depression they were going through, he said.

The report, which gathered information from nurses from ICN member-countries like South Africa until the end of last month, gives insight into how the pandemic has brought mass trauma onto the nursing workforce and also highlights the importance of protecting the front-line caregivers.

It also gives insight into how policy-developers in governments, healthcare facilities and health organisations can deliver on their responsibility to support and strengthen the nursing workforce, which is the backbone of health systems.

The report found that, at the end of last month:

The nursing workforce lost 2 262 nurses to Covid-19 in 59 countries, which is a conservative total, given poor reporting and recording of deaths of health-care workers. More than 1.6 million health-care workers have been infected in 34 countries.

Overall, an average of 10% of Covid19 infections are among health-care workers.

In many countries, nurses were the biggest health-care worker group to contract Covid-19.

In Iran, 45% of the nursing workforce contracted Covid-19 as 60 000 nurses were infected. In Mexico, 21% of its workforce contracted Covid-19.

Lekhoathi said nurses in South African had complained to Denosa about burnout, anxiety, depression and trauma as they were faced with the increasing number of admissions.

They were also experiencing trauma, anxiety and depression due to: ¡ A shortage of staff because of the Treasury’s “ruthless” budget cuts in provincial departments. Abnormally-high infection and death rates among their colleagues. ¡ A lack of rest (many leave applications were declined).

¡ A lack of psychological support from the employer (many have to seek psychological support out of their own pockets).

¡ An increase in medical schemes premiums and inflation while their salaries have not been adjusted since April last year.

The Star

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