Compromise on mental health of nursing staff adversely affects healthcare delivery in India: SurveyOctober 12, 2021
A latest survey conducted on the psychological and mental wellbeing of nurses by Indian Nursing Council (INC) in collaboration with the Indian Society of Psychiatric Nurses (ISPN) found that a compromise on the mental health of nurses and midwives in India has adversely affected healthcare delivery, patient care and safety, while the pandemic demanded extraordinary efforts by them in taking care of patients.
The findings of the survey highlighted that stressed working environment because of increased caseloads during the second wave led to a series of mental health issues among the nursing staffs. It highlighted some of the common mental health issues experienced by nurses and midwives as fear, burnout, anxiety, and fatigue followed by stress, depression, insomnia, and work-life imbalance. Other issues include mental fatigue, phobia, grief, insecurity and helplessness. Common mental health issues experienced by them included anxiety (9.8%), fear (11.9%), fatigue (9.5%), stress (7.1%), lack of facility (7.1%), insomnia (4.8%), absence of work life balance (4.8%), depression (4.8%) among others.
The survey findings were revealed at a webinar, themed ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’ commemorating the World Mental Health Day. The webinar, attended by Dr T Dileep Kumar, President, INC, Dr Ashok MV, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, St John’s Medical College Hospital, Bangalore, Dr Roy K George, President, TNAI, Dr Arun Jyoti Baruah, Prof and HoD, Department of Psychiatric Nursing, LGBRIMH, Tezpur and Dr G Radhakrishnan, General Secretary, and Dr. G Balamurugan, Joint Secretary, ISPN, Dr. Ashok MV and other dignitaries from the profession, emphasised the importance of integrated mental health training for nurses and midwives by psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, etc. It also highlighted successful models of involving nurses in integrating mental health services.
“The pandemic showcased the extraordinary efforts by nurses in taking care of patients across India. While they continued with their invaluable service, they were also affected by psychological and mental issues as highlighted through the findings of the survey. We have been making efforts to assist our nurses and midwives by bringing forth counselling sessions and programmes for their mental welling being and will continue to do so,” said Dr T Dileep Kumar, President, Indian Nursing Council, sharing insights from the survey, while delivering his presidential address.
According to the National Health Workforce Accounts India, almost 47% of India’s health workforce consists of nurses and midwives. They are crucial support pillars of the healthcare system and the mental well-being of nurses and midwives are of optimal importance. They were and are at the forefront stepping up to the health challenge and filling in the gap left by a lack of doctors in many villages or dismal doctor-patient ratio in hospitals nationwide and a compromise on their mental health adversely affects healthcare delivery, patient care and safety. This unilaterally drives home the importance of the psychological health of nurses being free from anxiety, depression and stress to carry out their functions and be strongly motivated to continue their invaluable service.
Highlighting the need for creating a safe and positive environment for nurses to function optimally, Dr G Radhakrishnan, General Secretary, ISPN said, “A compromise on the mental health of our nurses and midwives adversely affects healthcare delivery, patient care and safety. Research highlights that a nurse’s role is closely linked to patient safety and unilaterally drives home the importance of the psychological health of nurses being free from anxiety, depression, and stress to carry out their functions and be strongly motivated to continue their invaluable service’.
One of the primary ways of supporting nurses and midwifes in the health sector is to reduce their work-related stress by improving working conditions. This includes implementing appropriate salaries, flexible schedules, adequate nurse staffing, and creating jobs that allow career growth as well as retention of aging nurses to continue so that they can remain in the workforce longer. Unless these changes are put in place, the burnout of nurses and its negative impact on patient care will only continue despite the best efforts put forth by nurses and midwifes.
It is a well-known fact that nursing and midwifery as a profession is subjected to stress-provoking working environments that can have long-term effects on them. This is contributed by factors like understaffing, long working hours, poor nurse-patient ratio, pay disparity and others. While these issues have long been attached to the profession, COVID-19 compounded these issues that had long existed within the profession.