The first years of the COVID-19 pandemic had a severe impact on the mental health of nurses, who were already struggling with low morale owing to low pay and understaffing. For many, the mental strain of working through the pandemic crisis did not end with the politicians' expedient claim that the pandemic is ‘over’ (even as the coronavirus continues to mutate, infect and kill). Although many celebrate the freedoms of the end of lockdown policies and mask mandates, those who bore, and continue to bear, responsibility for nursing critically ill patients through times of crisis are often left alone and unsupported to cope with the toll it has taken on their lives and mental health.
Among the costs for healthcare staff at the frontline of COVID-19 care are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and moral loss or moral injury. PTSD, suicidal ideation and suicide were recognised as risks to nurses on the frontline from the start of the pandemic (Chidiebere Okechukwu et al, 2020). Gabra et al (2022) found that nurses on the frontline of care for COVID-19 patients were significantly more likely to experience PTSD compared with other nurses (P=0.025). This was associated with the intensity of working during the crisis with inadequate breaks and a lack of institutional support.
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