Undoubtedly, nurses are the unsung heroes of the fight against the deadly coronavirus pandemic. These frontline fighters risked their lives and wellbeing, and that of their family and loved ones, to save lives. Nurses spend more time in direct contact with infected patients as compared to other healthcare professionals.
They are responsible for monitoring patients, uplifting their spirits during quarantine, and helping them recover. In addition, nurses embraced the excruciating discomfort of personal protective gear, which caused respiratory issues and other health concerns. Yet, they neglected their comforts and wellbeing and continued to serve the healthcare industry with unwavering dedication.
Naturally, like all human beings, nurses are not immune to mental health ailments like stress, anxiety, and depression. But unfortunately, the pandemic created a high-risk environment where nurses had to fight endlessly in life-and-death situations. The occupational stress and mental discomfort stemming from such a job are unprecedentedly damaging.
Keep reading to explore the factors that affect the mental health of these frontline pandemic fighters.
Excruciatingly Hectic Routines
Young nursing professionals and registered nurses served the coronavirus patients with gruelingly long and hectic shifts. Unfortunately, they neglected their families and loved ones, working 24-48-hour shifts, donning intolerable protective gear to ensure safety.
Nurses have always had hectic routines, but the pandemic contributed unprecedented stress and trauma to their practices. Each day, they had to help patients fighting for life and nurse them back to health. Working in such high-risk situations creates an enormous amount of occupational stress.
Many nursing professionals are striving to escape these hectic routines with academic and career advancement in recent years. Their ultimate goal is to climb to leadership positions and reduce traditional, hectic work. Modern-day nurses can pursue a terminal degree in nursing to carve out leadership positions and flexible routines. A doctoral program allows a nurse to emerge as a nursing leader, allowing a healthy work-life balance and clinical significance. Unfortunately, nurses who do not pursue higher education usually end up in a lifelong loop of gruelingly hectic work responsibilities.
Mental and Physical Trauma
Working in high-stakes settings of the pandemic has resulted in severe mental and physical stress for nursing professionals. Nurses had to forgo their own psychological and physical wellbeing and focus solely on the patients fighting life and death situations. So naturally, this altruism and dedication to their profession came at a hefty cost to their health.
Nurses had to remain separated from their families and loved ones, for they chose to contribute their knowledge and services. Many healthcare professionals worldwide chose their families and decided to stay home and embrace other careers. Therefore, nurses who decided to fight the pandemic rather than prioritizing their safety deserve our respect and gratitude. These nurses had to handle the unbelievable trauma of dying patients and colleagues.
Many nursing professionals succumbed to the coronavirus outbreak while helping patients struggling with respiratory illnesses. These nurses got infected because of their proximity to infected patients, creating unbelievable trauma for nurses who survived. Working under such traumatic and grueling circumstances intensified the occupational stress that nurses combat in a pandemic-free world.
These circumstances gave rise to multiple mental disturbances, including stress, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Fear of Getting Infected
The pandemic confined the entire human population within the boundaries of their home environment. With lockdowns imposed worldwide, people clung to the safety of their homes, refusing to step outdoors and expose themselves. Sadly, nurses and healthcare professionals did not have the luxury to prioritize their safety and stay indoors.
Nurses are frontline fighters in this deadly pandemic which had to forgo their safety. They had to fight against the fear of contracting the virus and then taking it home to their loved ones. For them to avoid endangering their families, many nurses were separated from their families. Deprived of their family and social support, confined in high-stakes environments, nurses had little choice but to cope.
Each day, they fought bravely and courageously, neglecting the fear of getting infected and suffering the same discomfort as their patients. One cannot help but compare nurses with soldiers who fought bravely and tirelessly to save us all and bend the curve.
The Stress of Redeployment
Nurses serving on the frontlines during the pandemic also had to struggle against the overwhelming stress of redeployment. Millions of nurses were deployed to specialties and healthcare teams they had little experience of serving and handling. As a result, they had to embrace new working environments to help their teams to the best of their abilities.
Nurses struggled with the excruciating discomfort of ill-fitting and suffocating protective gear. They served in positions that inspired fear and stress due to inadequate training and experience. In addition, nurses had to fight against unprecedented uncertainty and risk stemming from the mammoth changes in their work routines.
The changes to their shifts and work settings created enormous fear, ambiguity, and insecurity. Nurses had to train and prepare themselves to ensure safety and prevent themselves from becoming transmitters of the virus. The stress of rapidly adjusting to their new healthcare roles and responsibilities made them increasingly vulnerable to mental and physical illnesses.
Nursing staff that served in relatively safer and less chaotic wards, such as pediatric, and home care, shifted to high-risk situations. These were nurses who purposefully chose these relatively safer specializations to enjoy life and work quality. And during the pandemic, they had little choice but to relocate to high-risk wards and get exposed to the virus.
Suffocating Personal Protective Gear
Those of us who had the option and luxury to wait out the pandemic safely at home cannot imagine the discomfort of nurses. These dedicated professionals would start their days with rigorous and rigid sanitization and safety rituals. Then, they had to wear uncomfortable and suffocating protective gear, which denied them the ability to breathe freely.
They struggled with excruciating perspiration, hunger pangs, and respiratory struggle. And despite their obvious discomfort, they continued serving and uplifting quarantined patients with a smile on their faces. Unfortunately, the physical unease of their protective gear led to severe trauma and mental distress.
The world owes nurses and other healthcare professionals an enormous debt of gratitude for fighting against the deadly pandemic. Nurses had to rearrange and disrupt their lives and leave the safety of their homes. They had to distance themselves from family and loved ones for months, afraid of transmitting the virus.
These professionals worked tirelessly and with unwavering dedication. Hundreds of nurses lost their lives after succumbing to the clutches of the deadly virus. And yet, the fear of contamination and possible death did not deter them from performing their duties.