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Psychological Impacts of COVID-19 on Nurses

Psychological Impacts of COVID-19 on Nurses

COVID-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic on March 2020, with China being the first country to the outbreak. However, the United States cases were the highest and had the most deaths. Due to this virus, travel to other countries was banned while institutions and most workplaces moved online. As most people lost their jobs, others tried to adapt to working online and homeschooling, while others had no choice but to be exposed to the virus. Caring for the patients took a toll on the nurse’s mental health. While COVID-19 changed many people’s lives, nurses were psychologically affected as they faced fear, anxiety, stress, social isolation, and frustration.

COVID-19 led to increased cases of fear among nurses. According to Abbas et al. (2021), “COVID-19 fear is the fundamental force for the creation of stress.”  The risk of exposure to the virus made the nurses vulnerable since they were concerned about the extended workload and involvement in emotional and ethical decision-making. Mostly, they were afraid of infecting their loved ones, thus forced to distance themselves from friends and families, leading to depression (Fofana et al., 2020). Also, the uncertainty of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) quality and shortage heightened the impact on the nurses’ mental health. To reduce the number of PPE changes, nurses chose to reduce toileting needs and worked longer periods in exposed areas. Thus, these factors majorly caused secondary trauma and moral injury.

Nurses caring for critical patients are more likely to suffer from anxiety and stress than other healthcare workers. Lai et al. (2019) claim that front-line nurses caring for patients are prone to experience more severe anxiety symptoms. Anxiety may be caused by the uncertainty of the coronavirus vulnerability and disruptions of daily routines. Most nurses were involved in worrying too much, compulsive symptom-checking, and monitoring threats which led to COVID-19 anxiety disorder.

As a COVID-19 prevention measure, physical distancing is necessary for slowing the spread. However, prolonged isolation has consequences, as social isolation can lead to mental health. A study by Woods et al. (2022) states that being socially engaged positively impacts psychological well-being. Nurses experienced social isolation since they were mostly away from their loved ones.  Issues like anxiety and depression result from social isolation but can also cause it. Isolation is also caused by social rejection. Nurses experienced social rejection from their friends and families as their loved ones kept their distance for fear of being infected with the virus. Additionally, some nurses felt that relatives and friends did not appreciate their work. Hence, they ended up isolating themselves from the public, leading to depressive symptoms.

Frustration is not a bad emotion, but in some cases, it can harm one’s health. Much frustration may lead to depressive symptoms, causing decreased interest in day-to-day activities (Salari et al., 2020). This causes a loss of track of time and productivity. During the pandemic, fewer testing kits, PPEs, and fear of contracting the virus caused frustration. Nonetheless, the major depressive factors were fear of lack of employer support, depression, and when patients died from the virus. Therefore, frontline nurses need to regulate their emotions and ensure flexibility to reduce frustration.

Being the most exposed to the virus, nurses were psychologically affected as they faced fear, anxiety, stress, social isolation, and frustration. These psychological impacts led to repercussions like secondary trauma, anxiety disorder, and depression. Ergo, nurses need to regulate their emotions and seek moral support to bypass the psychological impacts caused by caring for coronavirus patients. The government and healthcare leaders should also provide support by ensuring the adequacy of quality equipment. The pandemic is still a global threat but under better control.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Abbas, S., Al-Abrrow, H., Abdullah, H., Alnoor, A., Khattak, Z., & Khaw, K. (2022). Encountering Covid-19 and perceived stress and the role of a healthy climate among medical workers. Current Psychology, 41(12), 9109-9122. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-021-01381-8

Fofana, N., Latif, F., Sarfraz, S., Bashir, M., & Komal, B. (2020). Fear and agony of the pandemic leading to stress and mental illness: An emerging crisis in the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Psychiatry Research, 291, 113230. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32593067/

Lai, J., Ma, S., Wang, Y., Cai, Z., Hu, J., Wei, N., Wu, J., Du, H., Chen, T., Li, R., Tan, H., Kang, L., Yao, L., Huang, M., Wang, H., Wang, G., Liu, Z., & Hu, S. (2020). Factors associated with mental health outcomes among health care workers exposed to coronavirus disease 2019. JAMA Network Open, 3(3), https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32202646

Salari, N. Khazaie, H., Hosseinian-Far, A., Khaledi-Paveh, B., Kazeminia, M., Mohammadi, M., Shohaimi, S., Daneshkhah, A., & Eskandari, S. (2020). The prevalence of stress, anxiety, and depression within front-line healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients: a systematic review and meta-regression. Human Resources for Health, 18(100). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12960-020-00544-1

Woods, D., Navarro, A., LaBorde, P., Dawson, M., & Shipway, S. (2022). Social Isolation and Nursing Leadership in Long-Term Care. Nursing Clinics of North America, 57(2), 278-286. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35659988/

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