More than a quarter of respiratory nurses in the UK considered leaving the profession after the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, a small study has revealed.
Researchers from Edge Hill, Glasgow Caledonian and Southampton universities have analysed online survey responses from 161 respiratory nurses to explore how their mental health and wellbeing had been impacted by the second peak of Covid-19 during late 2020.
“The pandemic taught us that there is a need for appropriate support to protect and improve the mental health of the workforce”
Carol Ann Kelly
Results showed that more than half of nurse respondents (52%) experienced minimal anxiety, while a quarter (25%) had mild anxiety and 22% had experienced moderate to severe anxiety.
Meanwhile, almost a third (29%) had mild symptoms of depression, while 21% had moderate to severe depression symptoms and 49% had none to minimal symptoms.
A small number of respondents (5%) also said they had time off work due to stress during the pandemic.
Concerningly, researchers found that a “significant proportion” – just over a quarter at 25.5% – reported that they had considered leaving nursing because of the pandemic.
The study stressed that nurses would “benefit from regular mental health check-ups to ensure they are fit to practice and receive the support they need to work effectively”.
Nursing Times launched its Covid-19: Are You OK? campaign in the spring of 2020 to lobby for appropriate mental health and wellbeing support for the profession.
While most respiratory nurses (86%) reported positive experiences when caring for patients during the first lockdown, more than two thirds (70%) also reported negative ones.
Almost three quarters (74%) said patient safety had been negatively affected by the pandemic. This was in part because of barriers to care such as isolation, an increased need for personal protective equipment, increased pressures and diminished staffing levels, the researchers said.
Nurses responding to the survey also described experiencing frustration from patients who were angry that they did not have the “staffing levels to meet their needs”.
Edge Hill University researcher Dr Carol Ann Kelly was a co-investigator for the paper entitled: Factors influencing fatigue in UK nurses working in respiratory clinical areas during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic: an online survey. It was published in May 2022.
Dr Kelly said: “We found that the mental and physical wellbeing of nurses can be vulnerable and needs to be protected.
“The pandemic taught us that there is a need for appropriate support and interventions to protect and improve the mental health of the workforce and provide the necessary support, especially during times of crisis.
“Employers should be alert to the need to take proactive measures to recruit, retain and upskill the workforce.”