A call for healthy workplaces and self-care to ensure nurses’ well-being
Dec 20, 2021, By: Hazel J. Magnussen
- Nurses have experienced extraordinary stress and trauma during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness of the collective value of nurses in the health-care system.
- A workplace environment that fosters respect, trust, and collaboration is essential for nurses’ health and well-being.
Since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 virus outbreak a pandemic in March 2020, nurses on the front lines of health care have experienced extraordinary stress. The pandemic exacerbated nurse burnout due to heavy workloads already evident in the nursing profession. In light of the impact and aftermath of the pandemic on nurses’ health, access to mental health support must be a priority.
Three fourth-year nursing students at the University of Alberta (2021) surveyed select nursing units “to identify issues nurses face in relation to care delivery and self-care during the pandemic.” One nurse described her pandemic fatigue: “I would describe my emotional state as being on a roller coaster. …Things that would usually never bother me make me irritable.” The survey results highlighted the role of managers and co-workers as “a fundamental resource during the pandemic.”
A Canadian study (Lapum, Nguyen, Fredericks, Lai, & McShane, 2021) reviewed emotional experiences of nurses in COVID-19 hospital environments. Nurses acknowledged the effects of trauma, exhaustion, and emotional labour on their practice. One nurse predicted: “It’s going to be a historical moment. As hard as it is … you’ll look back and value what you have learned.” Nurses acknowledged their resilience as they “thrived and adapted despite stress and adversity,” adversity that helped build resilience (p. 8).
The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of the health of the workplace itself. Even when nurses take responsibility for their health, lateral violence in the workplace can undermine their confidence and sense of well-being.
COVID-19 has exposed how particular nursing specialties, such as long-term care, may be perceived as less valuable than others. Renda and Enderman (2021) argue that “we are all essential” and call for the reinforcement of “the collective value of nursing.” They highlight the interdependence of nursing teams in the health-care system.
Healthy workplaces safeguard nurses’ health and safety by facilitating peer support and access to mental health services. As you move on from this critical point in nursing history, take time for your own self-care and healing.
Lapum, J., Nguyen, M., Fredericks, S., Lai, S., & McShane, J. (2021). “Goodbye … through a glass door”: Emotional experiences of working in COVID-19 acute care hospital environments. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, 53(1), 5–15.
Renda, A., & Enderman, T. (2021). We are all essential: Reinforcing the collective value of nurses. Canadian Nurse. Retrieved from https://canadian-nurse.com/en/articles/issues/2021/march-2021/we-are-all-essential-reinforcing-the-collective-value-of-nurses
University of Alberta Nursing News (2021). Uncovering nurses’ experiences of pandemic fatigue in Alberta. Retrieved from https://www.ualberta.ca/nursing/nursing-news/2021/may/uncovering-nurses-experiences-of-pandemic-fatigue-in-alberta.html