Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs in nursing from repeated direct and indirect exposure to traumatic situations. Nurses see every part of humanity: the good, the bad and the ugly.
In a study done prior to the COVID pandemic, 95% of psychiatric nurses in the nation matched the criteria for exposure to PTSD. Another study showed that 24% of ICU and general acute care nurses reported PTSD symptoms as well, while only 17% of emergency room nurses had a probable PTSD diagnosis.
Karen J. Foli, an associate professor at Purdue School of Nursing in Indiana, published an article in April noting that of the 1478 questionnaires, 372 nurses commented about job trauma they had experienced. Responding nurses who work longer shifts and are exposed to unsafe situations that jeopardize patient safety only intensified these findings.
Nurses are required to hurry through tasks, going without food and hydration during their shifts, sometimes without even a restroom break, resulted in unwittingly falsifying patient care documentation. Nurses experienced a range of emotions among which were stress, anxiety, grief, guilt, anger, burnout, and flashback.
According to a February 3rd press release from the University of California at San Diego (USC-San Diego Health), the suicide rates for the nation’s female nurses was 10 out of 100,000 while for male nurses it was 33 per 100,000! This data was compared to the general public counterparts which were 7 out of 100,000 for females and 27 per 100,000 for males.
According to the World Health Organization, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the global population. It is so sad that nurses are the forerunners in these studies. Most nurses recover naturally from the mental and physical toll that befalls them, however, a small minority will not.
As a nurse, it is important that you get the help that you need, to work in a safe, supportive workplace and to get early intervention if necessary.
Here are some courses available from nurse.com which can help you understand more about PTSD and anxiety disorder.
In the meantime, if you are not working in an environment that is safe and supportive, maybe you need a change because your mental health and wellbeing are too important, and so is your license. You can always get another job but not another license.