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Strategies to Strengthen Nurse Mental Health and Safety

Nurse Mental Health

No job is easy, but the job of a nurse is even more challenging, especially during a global health crisis. Nurses are at a higher risk of developing burnout due to the psychological trauma and cognitive overload that comes with the nursing profession. The situation is further exacerbated when nurses take on more responsibility during a pandemic or other large-scale incidents.

Based on the research findings of MedicoReach, the number of registered nurses (RNs) leaving their profession has nearly doubled since 2010 due to burnout, fatigue and mental health reasons.

To ensure nurses continue to deliver exceptional patient care, chief nurse officers (CNOs) must advocate for the wellbeing of nurses and create a safe, stress-free work environment. Nurses should be empowered with tools that do not add to their cognitive overload but bring efficiencies to their jobs instead. In this blog, we will explore some strategies to address nurse mental health and safety issues. 

How the Pandemic Impacted Nurse Mental Health

The unprecedented nature of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has stretched the limits of nurse resilience. Nurse professionals are feeling the strain of the pandemic as they take on extra work with some nurses going as far as reconsidering their career choice. 

What’s worse, nurses have received poor mental health support during these trying times. According to a BMJ Open Respiratory Research survey study, only thirty-three percent of nurses were satisfied with the mental health support they received during the pandemic. 

Leading Causes of Deteriorating Nurse Mental Health

Nursing consists of many strenuous, high-priority responsibilities that make it one of the most mentally demanding jobs today. Common causes of mental health issues among nurses include:

  1. Long hours and lack of rest
  2. Emotional strain
  3. Cognitive overload
  4. Communication inefficiencies 

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1. Long hours and lack of rest

As a large portion of the U.S. population reaches their retirement age, the country is seeing a decline in the number of registered nurses in hospitals. As a result, hospitals are understaffed, and nurses are overworked. Nurses that work overtime have been observed to exhibit higher levels of stress.

2. Emotional strain

One of the most rewarding aspects of healthcare is seeing patients recover from their critical health issues. However, for nurses that work in critical or palliative care units, it can be quite distressing to experience high mortality and low recovery rates in patients. Dealing with combative patients, life-threatening injuries and end-of-life decisions can have a detrimental effect on nurse mental health and safety.

3. Cognitive overload

Cognitive overload refers to the excessive information given to nurse professionals in relation to their mental abilities. When the human brain receives too much information, it becomes unsustainable for it to consume and process critical details. Nurses are constantly splitting their attention between patients and mountains of data originating from many sources, leading to burnout.

4. Communication inefficiencies

A nurse’s job is primarily built on the foundation of effective communication and collaboration. However, healthcare is plagued with disjointed communications and ineffective tools that have adverse effects on patient care and the nurse’s mental wellbeing.

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Strategies to Strengthen Nurse Mental Health

Nurses must feel cared for, protected and empowered to deliver exceptional patient care. Nurse leaders can use the following four methods to create a more healthy, productive work environment for nurse practitioners.

1. Nurse safety and protection

Nurse safety and protection is paramount to ensuring that nurses put their best foot forward at work. This includes equipping nurses with protective gear to keep them safe from chemical or radiation exposure. Nurses must also be protected from potential altercations with disgruntled patients and their family members.

2. Breakout zones for relaxation

Nurses handle large amounts of work every day and that causes undue stress and mental health ramifications. It is important for hospitals to have well-rested, well-fed RNs to provide empathic patient care and attentive monitoring. This can be supplemented by breakout zones and cafeterias for nurses to decompress, relax and socialize with colleagues.

3. Improve team collaboration

Nurses must have access to all the resources and information needed to make informed patient care decisions. For instance, nurses must be able to seek advice from clinical experts to gain valuable insights into the care of patients. This can be achieved by giving nurses access to communication tools that accelerate their communication with experts in real time. 

4. Eliminate fragmented pager communications

Traditional pagers are inefficient, insecure and expensive. Pagers deliver fragmented communications that prolong the communication process for nurses. Additionally, paging hardware does not support two-way messaging and contextual communications for care teams.

Nurses must have access to more agile and responsive digital communication solutions. They must be able to send and receive secure, contextual messages in time-sensitive situations. To address cognitive overload from multiple alerts, nurses must be able to distinguish high-priority notifications from non-urgent notifications. Advanced digital communication tools trigger different mobile alert tones based on the severity of the notification. This helps nurses prioritize and address the most critical, high-priority alerts first.

How OnPage Helps Improve Nurse Mental Health

OnPage’s HIPAA-secure, clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) platform eliminates disjointed communication, unifying all sources of messaging and alerts into one platform. That way, nurses only need to log in to one source to gain insights into care team communication and collaboration performance.

Further, OnPage provides cutting-edge integrations with electronic health record (EHR) systems. Through these integrations, nurses no longer must log in to EHR systems multiple times a day to get updates on patient records. OnPage automatically triggers alerts to the nurse practitioner’s smartphone whenever updates and requests have been made in an EHR system.

Effective communication underpins a nurse’s job, and at OnPage, we strive to alleviate workplace stress and improve nurse mental health through automated, simplified clinical messaging and alerting.

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