Nurses face mass trauma across world - ICN


The International Council of Nurses (ICN) said Wednesday it has new evidence suggesting COVID-19 is causing mass trauma with confirmed nurse deaths exceeding 2,200 globally.

"With high levels of infections in the nursing workforce continuing, overstretched staff are experiencing increasing psychological distress in the face of ever-increasing workloads, continued abuse and protests by anti-vaccinators," the ICN said in a statement.

"We are witnessing a unique and complex occupational trauma that is affecting the global nursing workforce," ICN CEO Howard Catton said.

"Nurses are dealing with relentless, unprecedented demands from their patients, resulting in physical exhaustion. But they are also facing enormous mental health pressures leading to serious psychological distress."

Preliminary findings from ICN's new survey of its more than 130 National Nurses Associations and other sources suggest that the COVID-19 effect is a "unique and complex form of trauma."

It has potentially devastating consequences in both the short- and long-term for individual nurses and healthcare systems in which they work.

The pandemic risks damaging the nursing profession for generations unless governments immediately address the issue.

ICN said its survey suggests "the COVID-19 Effect" could trigger an exodus from the profession.

The world is already short of six million nurses, with another four million due to reach retirement age in the next 10 years, said the council.

With the effect of COVID-19 potentially leading to even more nurses leaving the profession, governments need to act to protect the nursing profession and the world's fragile healthcare systems or jeopardize national health systems and the World Health Organization's goal of Universal Health Care.

Citing specific countries and regions, ICN noted the Japanese Nursing Association says 15% of hospitals across Japan had nurses resigning their jobs. Some 20% of nurses reported experienced discrimination or prejudice during the first wave of the pandemic.

The American Nurses Association reports 51% nurses feel overwhelmed and other US report shows 93% of healthcare workers were experiencing stress, 76% reported exhaustion and burnout, and nurse-to-patient ratios increased three-fold.

In Brazil, 49% of nurses report anxiety, and 25% report depression.

China said 60% of nurses report exhaustion, and 90% report anxiety.

In Africa, a survey conducted in 13 countries revealed 20% of healthcare workers surveyed reported daily depression symptoms during the pandemic, compared to 2% before the pandemic.

In Spain, 80% of nurses report symptoms of anxiety and increasing burnout.

Israel reports that over 40% of nurses fear caring for the sick and COVID-19 patients.

In Australia, 61% of healthcare workers report burnout, and 28% report depression.

"Even if only 10 to 15% of the current nursing population quits because of the 'COVID-19 Effect,' we could have a potential shortfall of 14 million nurses by 2030, which is the equivalent of half the current nursing workforce," said Catton.

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