VANCOUVER – In addition to the many impacts British Colombians are suffering from COVID-19, a recent study suggests that the pandemic could negatively impact the mental health of those at the forefront of the crisis.
According to a follow-up study conducted by the BC Nurses’ Union and researchers from the University of British Columbia School of Nursing, levels of severe depression, anxiety and exhaustion have increased in recent months.
A study was first conducted late last year, asking nurses to evaluate certain mental health factors. The survey was conducted again in June and July, asking the same questions as before and including new ones about the COVID-19 pandemic in particular.
In a recent survey, 41% of 3,676 nurses surveyed across BC said they had severe depression. Last fall, that figure was 31%.
Additionally, 60% said they were suffering from emotional exhaustion, up from 56% last year. More than half said they felt there were inadequate staffing levels.
“Before the pandemic, we knew that nurses had been severely affected by the shortage of nursing care, suffering from significant burnout due to high workloads,” Christine Sorensen, president of BCNU, said in a news release.
“It is more important than ever that mental health support is provided to nurses and all healthcare professionals as they prepare for a wave of COVID-19 this fall as they attempt to meet goals in the government’s surgery restart program.” .
The survey also asked nurses how worried they were about contracting COVID-19. Eighty percent said they were worried about getting the disease from work, while 86 percent said they were extremely worried about taking it home to loved ones.
About a quarter of respondents said they had been tested for COVID-19.
While the data is still being analyzed, principal investigator Farinaz Havaei, who is an assistant professor at UBC, said there are “broad trends of worsening mental health among BC first-line nurses.”
“As a nurse and researcher, I am very concerned to see more nurses reporting higher levels of poor mental health, which can directly affect their ability to deliver effective care if not resolved in a timely manner,” Havaei said.