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Psychosocial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Australian nurses and midwives: a cross-sectional study
journal contributionposted on 2023-03-30, 23:18 authored by Sara HoltonSara Holton, Karen Wynter, Julie ConsidineJulie Considine, M Street, Ana HutchinsonAna Hutchinson, Damien KhawDamien Khaw, P Stephenson, Alison HutchinsonAlison Hutchinson, Cherene OckerbyCherene Ockerby, K Nankervis, S Crowe, M Trueman, S Sweeney, S Bruce, Bodil RasmussenBodil Rasmussen
Objective: To investigate the psychosocial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on nurses and midwives working in acute care settings, specifically psychological distress, self-reported concerns, and perceived impact on their work and personal lives. Background: Little is known about the psychosocial impact of the pandemic on nurses and midwives in Australia, a country with a substantially lower number of COVID-19 cases and deaths than many others. Few studies investigating the prevalence of psychological distress among nurses during the pandemic have been conducted in more than one setting, especially in the Australian context. Study design and methods: Cross-sectional survey design (STROBE checklist). Nurses and midwives (n=1,611) at four metropolitan tertiary health services in Melbourne, Australia completed an anonymous online survey between 15 May and 31 August 2020, which assessed symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress (DASS-21); concerns related to COVID-19; and other effects of COVID-19. Space was provided for free-text comments. Results: Approximately one fifth of respondents reported moderate to extremely severe symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. Fewer years of clinical experience were significantly associated with higher levels of psychological distress. More than half of the respondents were extremely/very concerned about passing COVID-19 on to family members and about their family’s health, and almost half were concerned about caring for a patient who had confirmed or suspected COVID-19. Respondents reported that certain precautionary measures such as personal protective equipment (PPE) interfered with their ability to provide optimal patient care. Positive aspects of the pandemic were also reported including a sense of togetherness and cooperation among staff. Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on the psychological wellbeing and work and personal lives of nurses and midwives working in acute care settings in Melbourne, Australia, particularly those with less clinical experience. Implications for nursing and health services research, policy and practice: Nurses and midwives, particularly those with less clinical experience, would benefit from additional, targeted wellbeing and support initiatives. For those with less experience, initiatives could include being partnered with more experienced colleagues and educators who can provide practical and emotional support and monitor their stress levels. What is already known about the topic? • Nurses and midwives have experienced more psychological distress than other healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. • Most studies about the psychosocial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nurses and midwives have been conducted in a single health service. • Few studies have concurrently investigated the experiences of nurses and midwives from different health services during the COVID-19 pandemic especially in the Australian context. What this paper adds • Despite the relatively low number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Australia, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on the psychological wellbeing and work and personal lives of Australian nurses and midwives. • About one in five of the nurses and midwives surveyed reported moderate to extremely severe symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress during the first wave of the pandemic. • Nurses and midwives with fewer years of clinical experience experienced higher levels of psychological distress than those with more experience.