Our Nation’s Healthcare Workers Are Not Okay


Ten months ago, as COVID-19 raged through our nation, we surveyed healthcare professionals on the state of their mental health, and the responses we received painted a stark picture of what they were being asked to endure as “healthcare’s heroes”.

Now, more than a year after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March of 2020, we’ve again asked healthcare professionals about their mental state, and the results are grim, to say the least.

Despite COVID-19 vaccinations ramping up across the country, and cases of the virus continuing to trend downward, according to the responses shared with us, our nation’s healthcare workers are, simply put, not okay.

The survey, which saw responses from registered nurses, advanced practitioners, respiratory therapists, and more, asked healthcare professionals to rate their current mental health, as well as their mental health prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. On average, prior to the pandemic, respondents ranked their mental health as an 8.23 out of 10, with 1 being very poor and 10 being excellent. 4.06 out of 10 is how the same respondents ranked their current mental health a year into the pandemic, down from an average of 5.44 out of 10 when we posed the same question in May of 2020.

Respondents also clearly expressed just how much they feel the pandemic has worsened their mental health (9/10) and, though vaccinations provide a promising outlook for a return to some semblance of normalcy, when asked how much they feel the approval and administration of COVID-19 vaccines has improved their mental health, the average response was a dismal 5.69 out of 10.

The average results were as follows, including selected quotes from respondents.

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being very poor and 10 being excellent, how would you rate your mental health prior to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Average Answer: 8.21/10

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being very poor and 10 being excellent, how would you rate your current mental health?
Average Answer: 4.06/10

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being very low and 10 being very high, how would you rate your level of work-related stress prior to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Average Answer: 6.03/10

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being very low and 10 being very high, how would you rate your current level of work-related stress?
Average Answer: 8.09/10

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being very poor and 10 being excellent, how well do you believe you are coping with your work-related stress?
Average Answer: 4.81/10

Most Commonly Used Coping Mechanisms:
1. Talking to Family/Friends
2. Humor
3. Physical Activity
4. Tie: Prescription Medication & Other
5. Avoidance
6. Yoga/Meditation
7. Alcohol
8. Therapy
9. Recreational Drugs

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being very little and 10 being very much, how much do you feel your job negatively impacts your mental health?
Average Answer: 7.59/10

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being very little and 10 being very much, how much do you feel the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened your mental health?
Average Answer: 9.00/10

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being very little and 10 being very much, how important do you feel your mental health is to your employer?
Average Answer: 4.81/10

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being not very often and 10 being very often, how often have you considered quitting your job in the past year?
Average Answer: 7.06/10

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being very little and 10 being very much, how much do you feel the approval and administration of COVID-19 vaccines has improved your mental health?
Average Answer: 5.69/10

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

“I’m really sick of all this. Management has the expectation that we keep giving and giving with no end in sight.”

“Nurses and other healthcare workers should be acknowledged with better pay and benefits (especially mental health). It will be interesting to see how many workers are diagnosed with PTSD in the coming months and years.”

“I actually did step out of the nursing field for now due to the impact on my mental health and am seeking professional help/intervention.”

“I think overall the entire pandemic situation has been terribly managed on both a federal and corporate levels. I would go in to more detail but I can already feel my blood pressure going up! But thanks for asking!”

“The lack of support from management, working short staffed every day, wearing PPE that is not for medical use, the lack of transparency, the overall mental health of patients, increase in meth, alcohol, and heroin use, the constant mental abuse from patients has made me consider selling my house, changing my lifestyle, and getting rid of my car so I can leave my career behind before it takes every last bit of my sanity and potentially my life.”

“Half of our staff has left to do travel nursing for 3X what they were making. These are seasoned nurses with years of experience. These nurses are not being replaced, we have 3 travelers to replace the 22 that have left since December. We are working extremely, dangerously short staffed with nurses who have NO ICU experience & management does not offer a plan. I know more will be leaving.”

“Each time I hear the government tell people not to wear masks I get stressed worrying about more deaths from COVID. The public trying to promote COVID as a government conspiracy. Most of the people who are recovering from COVID do not return to the normal life they had before COVID. ”

“I DID quit. I retired a year earlier than I had planned just to get away from the stress. I have been doing temporary gig work and LOVE it. Get to do the job and go home.”

“I feel management and the organization is doing very little to help the bedside nurse feel better during this pandemic. They are almost trying to make things worse.”

“If I were home all the time and not working with the kids and other staff, I would be much worse.”

Prior to the pandemic, multiple occupations within the field were already considered high stress and the suicide risk was identified as being higher among nurses than any other profession, making the findings especially alarming. With experts predicting an escalating mental health crisis for Americans as a whole, it is especially important for healthcare professionals to be aware of their mental health, and to seek help as needed.

If you are struggling with your mental health, we urge you to ask for help. You are just a call or text away from reaching professionals who can assist you in processing what you are experiencing. Reach out to them, if you need support at:

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Hotline: Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
  • The Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741741.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-TALK.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

6 Comments

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  1. 1
    Donna Saums

    I have been a RN since 1984. We faced all the unknown from AIDS, HIV, MERS, Legionare’s disease, etc. And the fear of bringing home c.diff., a superinfection, etc. home to our loved ones. We have seen the ravages of someone who allowed their cancer to grow and/or the treatment needed to “fix it”. We have seen death and life. But this pandemic shows that we still do have adminstrators who do not have their employees or their clients best interests at heart. The bottom line is still money. Why did we have yo wear PPEs that normally get thrown away after one use repeatly for 3 weeks? Why did we not get recognized as disease fighters for a long time? We were told it comes from CDC, etc. But we have been fighting diseases for a long time and bet we have a good idea or two to offer. Hands on healthcare workers are strong but we are beaten down. Long shifts, too few help, fear, not seeing our family, always surrounded by stress, at home, at work, at the store, at the drive up window. It is taking its toll. I do not feel as good about myself and what I do than before all this.

  2. 2
    DAG

    I agree with all the other post. Felt over worked, under paid, under appreciated, stressed by mtg and pt. Working under staff, mtg didn’t care. Taking on to many pt with critical care needs. I have PSTD from working civid this past year. I burst into tears a lot. Noone seems to listen how stressful, how many pt died this year in regards to previous yrs as a nurse. Bottom line nurse do a lot for very little money.

  3. 3
    mary ann pason

    Not to diminish the stressors experienced by hospital nurses but , were the nurses involved in the survey first line care givers to Covid patients and has this survey been done with the general public ?…( ie) teachers, business, social services outside of hospitals, food services , elderly , high school students.
    How many nurses are aware that hospitals provided daily monetary stipends for physicians that needed to quarantine d/t either Covid exposure or being Covid positive ? Was this done for any of the Nursing staff ?

  4. 4
    Karen

    I also quit, not only cause of the changes which occurred d/t Covid, but also cause of changes d/t “diversity” , transgenderism, BLM, etc. The political climate of the administration made my work unpleasant. Constant e-mails on how to think pushed me out.

  5. 5
    Roxanna Smith

    Before the COVID virus the Med-Surge unit I was on was becoming an ICU overflow unit, cardiac telemetry overflow unit and everything in between. CNA’s were cut down to 2 AIDEs for 38 patients. The Nurse to patient ratio was 6 to 8 patients to 1 RN. This meant total care was to be done by RNs. Taking the acuity level, this made for possible dangerous conditions for patients. It also put our licenses in jeopardy. Because, any RN knows if anything goes wrong it’s on them, no facility will admit they put you in that position and they sure aren’t going to take the responsibility. But, now with the virus we became a COVID rule out unit, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse. Now, by adding the garbing and ungarbing of PPE between every patient, the understanding of delayed care is very slim. Stressed out staff and angry patients is a recipe for disaster. I had to get off the floor and went to Home Health, which put me in a very uncontrolled environment as far as catching the virus. And I thought the Hospital was a risk. Who knows how many people go in and out of someone’s house. Hospitals don’t want patients to go there if they can be treated at home….more garbing up but, this time it’s in someone’s carport or behind your car, getting PPE out of your trunk…its no wonder no one wants to be a Nurse anymore!

  6. 6
    David Beck

    I have worked as a Clinical Provider in a busy level 1Trauma center in the ED with average volume of 85K visits a year and although promised by the Democrats I have yet to receive a penny of any type of stimulus funds . I am in credit card debt and just because I may make more than others does not mean that my expenses are any less than other people that have been well compensated and was also hospitalized for reaction from my second Covid vaccine. …

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