Julie Porter and Kathryn Marsden enjoy the support of a collaborative and supportive team of Clinical Nurse Educators, employed by the Nurse Education and Research Unit in Hospitals South. Their role is to equip nurses to meet the complexities of today’s changing and challenging heath care environment.
Tasmanian nurses are facing important emotional stressors during the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, these stressors have caused or exacerbated burnout, depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Support programs relying on self-referral often fail because they require nurses to admit that they need help. Moreover, nurses tend to feel alone in their vulnerability and suffering; this feeling is reinforced by a culture of silence, which convinces nurses that others are successfully handling these stresses. Because of the nature of health care workplace stressors, nurses often want to confide in and receive support from peers rather than from mental health professionals, sharing emotional pain associated with their challenging work. Emotional stressors are often occupational hazards rather than mental health problems.
This study will provide novel information of the health of Tasmanian nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic and track their long-term mental health. Study data will help us understand which healthcare support services are accessed and their efficacy. It will show which groups of nurses are more vulnerable and at which stage healthcare resources are required, assisting the provision of evidence-based support services in the future. Data will assist with the design of future interventions, such as peer-support models thereby reducing the stigma associated with receiving support. Peer support also fosters a sense of camaraderie that is crucial to sustaining joy at work. Seeing that colleagues understand one’s emotional responses and have had similar experiences reduces the feelings of isolation and self-recrimination associated with distress. Information gathered from this study will improve the wellbeing of the nursing workforce.