WEST LAFAYETTE, IN – Purdue University researchers say in a new study that nurses are experiencing a new type of psychological harm specific to their daily work – inadequate resource trauma.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses and other health care professionals across the country have reported shortages of masks, gloves, gowns and other protective gear to keep them safe while caring for coronavirus patients.
Purdue School of Nursing associate professor Karen J. The study, led by Foley, used an online questionnaire to collect responses. Of the 1,478 surveys completed, 372 registered nurses licensed in the state of Indiana provided written responses to a request for additional comments regarding trauma they experienced on the job.
Staffing problems were reported by nurses, who had to work shifts for more than 12 hours and were exposed to unsafe conditions that put patient safety at risk. They were reported for rushing to complete tasks, falsifying patient care documents, and going without food and hydration during their shifts.
Nurses said they experience a variety of negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, sadness, guilt, anger, irritation and flashbacks. Physically, nurses reported nightmares, unhealthy diets, and substance abuse.
Foley wrote for an article published by TheConversation.com, "The pandemic has been a bleak catalyst for this immediate concern to watch." “I know nurses who were asked by employers to take care of COVID-19 patients, regardless of whether or not enough PPE was available. This was clearly a danger to both the nurses and the patients; Certainly this qualifies as a traumatic experience.
Researchers said the nurses’ comments "were vivid and descriptive,[and]often indicated that they were still recovering from traumatic experiences and understanding what had happened to them."
The researchers say that reducing occupational sources of trauma requires organizational policy, adequate resources and oversight.
Foley wrote, "The pandemic has focused our attention on the mental health needs of health care providers." “Nursing organizations have responded, and these efforts should be commended. But until we appreciate the sovereignty of nurses, who practice in a way that no other health provider does, trauma prevention solutions will stall. And the nurses will keep fighting.”
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