Enrolled nurse, Registered Nurses and Carers are all in integral part of patient care

Protecting the Mental Health of Nurses

Lucy Lynnster



Photo by Pranidchakan Boonrom from Pexels

Hazardous Lifestyle Take a Toll on Nurses' Mental Health

Around the world, a shortage of nurses is a growing concern in healthcare, but nowhere is this more prevalent than in Australia where a predicted need for over 109,000 nurses by 2025 is already concerning those in the field. Nurses live a stressful life and one that is often imbalanced and sometimes unhealthy. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is difficult, nurses face on-the-job struggles that are not found in any other occupation and often organising this is difficult. The real struggle often lies in keeping mental health in good condition because juggling everything thrown at a nurse can be demanding.

Does Nursing Culture Promote Unhealthy Living?

Nurses work long shifts, some between 8-12 hours long, with minimal breaks and a constant and varied workload. The demand for nurses is so high that most nurses feel judged when taking a short break or going out for lunch because the workload never seems to end in many cases. This is combined with hazardous working conditions in which nurses are subjected to: infection, unsafe chemicals, radiation, and assault. Circumstances like this come up daily for nurses, and they often do not get the appreciation or help they need in order to better help not only themselves but the patients as well.
Nurses work everywhere: Hospitals, medical centres, veterinary surgeons, dentists, nursing homes, in home care (patient’s homes), schools, Universities, Places of worship, correctional facilities, camps, airplanes, missionary clinics, law courts, war zones and military bases, research facilities and more
It is important to protect your own health and safety as well as that of others

How to Protect Your Health as a Nurse

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There exists a wide range of ways that nurses can take care of their mental health. The most important is a work-life balance. Remaining in hazardous conditions for too long can take its toll. Often nurses may feel that they have one duty in life, the patient, but nurses are humans too and deserve to have other interests in life as well as a strong social life in order to leave the workplace mentality behind. Leaving the workplace for some self-time is a good idea to promote better mental health. Sleep is also a big factor in maintaining a healthy balance in life. Over 46% of nurses end up sleep deprived due to their erratic and demanding schedules.

Prioritising sleep and reducing night shifts can help ensure well rested and healthier nurses.  Exercise is likewise a big contributor to a person's general well-being and nurses may often feel they do not get that chance because of their job demands. Nurses need to take time for themselves in order to cope with their stressful jobs and maintain this necessary balance. Work shift fatigue is real and does not contribute to better quality healthcare, in fact, it harms it.  Nurses are known as some of the hardest workers in the medical field, but that does not mean that they have to feel alone in their plight because there is help available. Creating and continuing healthy habits through prioritising sleep, exercise, and reducing time in the workplace when it gets to be too much, will allow nurses, and all other professionals, to have a better sense of self, work, and life in general. Taking the right steps towards better mental help is the first step in this process.