Canaan, CT – This National Nurses Week (May 6th-12th), Mountainside thanks nursing professionals across America for the lifesaving care they provide. This observance is also a solemn reminder about the heightened sacrifices that nurses make every day, especially in the age of COVID-19, when meeting the needs of patients potentially means firsthand exposure to the deadly virus.

Aside from fears about nurses and healthcare providers becoming physically ill, there are concerns about the mental health burdens shouldered by those on the front lines of the crisis. A 2020 journal study surveyed over 1200 healthcare workers across 34 hospitals in China at the height of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. The researchers found that 50 percent of participants experienced depression, 45 percent suffered from anxiety, and 72 percent reported feeling distressed. Nurses and those caring for COVID-19 patients were more likely to experience these adverse outcomes than physicians and those caring for patients with other conditions.

The consequences of the pandemic are likely to extend beyond the factors measured in the study. Trauma is expected to impact essential healthcare workers in the aftermath of the virus. Many may likewise experience the onset or worsening of alcoholism and drug addiction, as one in five people dealing with mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression also struggle with substance use disorders.

“At this time, stress, anxiety, and worry are running high. We know that people are more likely to turn to alcohol or drugs when they are in distress, and healthcare workers are people, too. It’s possible we could also see an increase in the rate of substance abuse among healthcare workers as this pandemic unfolds,” says Ashley McGee, Director of Nursing at Mountainside. “It’s critical for nurses to not only care for their patients but also to check in with their own mental health.”

In 2017, the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services estimated that ten percent of nurses struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. Before the pandemic, nurses already faced unique risk factors for addiction, including burnout and close proximity to pain medications. Now, many also have to contend with a lack of personal protective equipment, even longer shifts, a rising death rate they may feel powerless to stop despite their best efforts, and isolation – each of which can compound their stress.

For employers, being receptive to the needs of nurses and recognizing the difference they are making is vital. “In our detox unit, we’ve strengthened our efforts to maintain staff morale and keep the team connected by having more frequent check-in calls and team-building activities,” says McGee. “We encourage our nurses to recharge once they leave work by focusing on family and taking time for self-care.”

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Mountainside Treatment Center

Mountainside is nationally recognized for the effectiveness of its drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs. Our Integrative Care Model provides a comprehensive set of treatment and care offerings coordinated by a multidisciplinary treatment team to best fit the unique needs and interests of each client. We are lauded for our ability to partner with each client and the client’s family and healthcare professionals in developing and executing individualized treatment plans that promote long-term sobriety. Learn more about Mountainside at mountainside.com.