ROCHESTER, Minn. - It’s an alarming study that’s being brought to light as Mayo Clinic researchers report nurses in the U.S experience suicidal thoughts more than other general workers and are less likely to talk to anyone about it.
The findings appear in the American Journal of Nursing with more than 7,000 nurses participating in the study.
While it was conducted in late 2017 and early 2018 it’s believed the findings are dramatically compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Lotte Dyrbye explained, “We know that our nurses who are on the frontline taking care of COVID patients are experiencing really high levels of work stress and that work stress is putting them at high levels for burnout which is increasingly associated with, not only bad patient outcomes but really serious personal consequences such as having thoughts of suicide.”
The study finds out of the 7,000 respondents more than 400 nurses reported having suicidal thoughts within the past year.
Those who reported also said they're less likely to seek professional help for their emotional issues which researchers say means the situation needs urgent attention and practice-based interventions to address burnout and suicidal thoughts.
Dr. Dyrbye added, “It tells a really important story. Our nurses before the pandemic were experiencing a lot of suicidal thoughts and high rates of burnout and we know that's only increased during the pandemic. So, that only highlights the urgency of action we need to take.”
Mayo Clinic says the community can help health care workers by showing patience when seeking treatment saying everyone is doing their best during the pandemic when caseloads are extremely high.
ROCHESTER, Minn. ― Mayo Clinic researchers report that nurses in the U.S. experience suicidal ideation in greater numbers than other general workers and those who do are less likely to tell anyone about it. The findings appear in the American Journal of Nursing.
More than 7,000 nurses responded to a national survey on well-being, with questions ranging from burnout to depression. More than 400 nurses reported having suicidal ideation within the past year. That's 5½% of the respondents, which is nearly 1% higher than the general workforce sample at 4.3%.
Those who reported suicidal ideation also said they were less likely than other respondents to seek professional help for their emotional issues. More than one-third of the nurses had at least one symptom of burnout and 40% screened positive for symptoms of depression.
The researchers say their findings indicate that the situation needs urgent attention, and systems- and practice-based interventions need to be developed and implemented to address burnout and suicidal ideation.
It's important to note that this survey was conducted, beginning in late 2017, with data collection in 2018, before any of these nurses were confronted with effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"While the findings of our study are serious enough, we recognize the impact of the current pandemic has dramatically compounded the situation," says Liselotte Dyrbye, M.D., a Mayo Clinic internist and the senior author. "The need for system-level interventions to improve the work lives of nurses and other members of the health care team is greater than ever before."
The questionnaire was sent in November 2017 to 86,858 nurses and a sample of 5,198 general workforce members.
The other authors are Elizabeth Kelsey, D.N.P., Mayo Clinic; Colin West, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic; Daniel Satele, Mayo Clinic; Pamela Cipriano, Ph.D., University of Virginia; Cheryl Peterson, American Nurses Association; and Tait Shanafelt, M.D., Stanford University.