Supporting nurses’ mental health: An open letter to nurse leaders during COVID-19

As posted 10/11/2021 on

Margaret Apara, DNP, APRN, NP-C

Find out how one nurse leader has handled the pressures of the pandemic and advice on supporting nurses' mental health.

The past 19 months have not been the gentlest or most enjoyable for healthcare personnel, especially nurses. We are all burned out. We are discouraged. We are angry, and many of us are becoming resentful of those who have yet to receive their COVID-19 vaccines for their own health and the health of others.

A lot of our colleagues have opted out of nursing to pursue different paths to make a living without the stress and anxieties that we are now experiencing in nursing due to caring for multiple gravely ill patients.

Many have turned the remaining passion they have left toward other paths where they will not have to think of embracing the continuing nursing shortage or working longer hours across many days without breaks in what feels like an underappreciated working environment, where we are being asked to do more with less.

The stress level is visible and the anxiety is palpable. The frustration is written all over the faces of once cheerful, committed caregivers and can no longer be swept under the rug.

How Nurse Leaders Support Nurses' Mental Health

As nurse leaders, we are expected to do even more to support our teams. We are to be present physically, morally, emotionally, and sometimes spiritually for our team. We are continually striving to be the unique angels we are to create a supportive environment for nurses.

In ensuring a supportive workplace, we are creating an atmosphere that allows nurses to safely unburden their hearts. My office has become a haven where nurses are welcome to share their grief, concerns, and frustrations.

Many leaders have embraced an open-door policy where humor and gratitude can be shared, and staff can come in to vent, cry, and be embraced safely and encouraged.

Acknowledgments continue to be expressed for the continuing efforts and commitment of our staff caring for patients and residents. We celebrate every win and recognize every staff member's effort in the care they provide and for showing up to work every shift.

In addition to individual and team appreciation, it is amazing the love that is still pouring in from the community. Our community continues to give back to caregivers in hospital settings.

The appreciation for healthcare providers, especially nurses, has been enhanced by the experiences we are having with the pandemic. There have been food and snacks delivered to different departments by different organizations, religious groups, vendors, individuals, and even hospital administration.

The Toll of COVID-19 on Nurses' Mental Health

The pandemic has led to new protocols and more changes to the delivery of care, as well as an increased frequency in changes to certain policies, all of which must be implemented. This has led to an increase in the level of anxiety among nurses and pronounced underlying depression. ...

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