two nurses dealing with mental health challenges
Blog June 28, 2022

By Cassandra Damascus

AMN Healthcare’s Survey Reveals Nurses’ Mental Health Challenges

Nursing the Nation: Extreme Challenges, Extraordinary Impact

AMN Healthcare ran a large, detailed survey and the results illustrated the impact the pandemic had on registered nurses’ mental health and wellbeing. That 2021 survey, titled Nursing and the Nation: Extreme Challenges, Extraordinary Impact, is a biennial survey of registered nurses conducted by AMN Healthcare to assess the most recent trends in the profession of nursing and in the lives of nurses.

The data in the survey report was generated from 6,562 survey responses by registered nurses in the U.S. who were active and practicing nurses in 2021 and provided direct care to patients. One major facet of this year’s survey focused on the mental health and well-being of nursing professionals.

Access the full survey results, including the audio version and Ebook, here.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Nurses’ Mental Health and Wellbeing

The COVID-19 pandemic had a tremendous impact on nurses. Eighty-three percent of the respondents reported caring for patients with COVID-19, while 18% were themselves diagnosed with COVID-19. Those nurses who cared for patients with COVID-19 were significantly affected by their experiences, impacting their burden of stress, their concerns about working in nursing, and their attitudes toward their profession and their workplaces.

At an infection rate of 18%, it can be extrapolated that approximately 720,000 nurses nationwide contracted COVID-19, given that there are approximately 4 million nurses in the United States (NCSBN, 2021).

For nurses who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, things were worse. Nearly twice as many nurses diagnosed with COVID-19 said they may leave nursing compared to nurses who were not diagnosed with COVID-19. Nurses who cared for patients with COVID-19 felt emotionally drained, felt like resigning, and worried about their health at significantly higher percentages than nurses who did not care for patients with COVID-19.

As members of the largest health profession with the most direct patient contact, nurses have suffered severe hardships from the pandemic.

The State of Nurses’ Mental Health and Wellbeing

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health and overall wellbeing of nurses represents a critical challenge to the healthcare system. A study of intensive care unit nurses found that forty-five percent reported symptoms of moderate-to-severe depression, and forty-seven percent were at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Guttormson et al., 2021). In a survey of healthcare workers from June-September 2020, eighty-two percent of respondents said they were suffering from emotional exhaustion, while seventy percent were having trouble sleeping, and sixty-three percent were experiencing work-related dread (Mental Health America, 2020).

What is being done to combat their exhaustion and mental distress? There are a variety of ways to conquer this challenge and most nurses are well on their way with approximately forty-six percent of nurses engaging in activities or accessing resources to address their mental health and wellbeing at least twice a week, and nearly one-quarter at least four times a week. Two-thirds take action to combat mental health and promote wellbeing at least once a week.

However, one-third of nurses don’t do anything to address their mental health and wellbeing. When extrapolated to the full population of nurses nationwide, this equates to approximately 1.4 million nurses who are not seeking mental health help. Fortunately, most healthcare organizations provide nurses and other coworkers with some type of mental healthcare while creating a culture of support for their mental health.

AMN Healthcare’s Efforts to Care for Caregivers

The pandemic’s impact on healthcare requires extraordinary efforts by organizations and the public to support the overburdened mind, body, and spirit of their nurses who have been working in extremely difficult environments and under unprecedented stress.

AMN Healthcare seeks to alleviate the stress and raise the spirits of nurses and healthcare professionals everywhere. AMN Healthcare is making strides to care for caregivers with their employee assistance programs, or EAPs. The EAPs include mental health support, physical well-being support, professional training support, logistics support, and critical resources such as financial and legal support. AMN Healthcare adapted and expanded support services to telehealth, especially mental health counseling. Free counseling was provided on demand for caregivers and their family members through video conferencing.

One area of rapid innovation during the pandemic was mobile technology for the healthcare workforce. AMN Healthcare developed a mobile app to help nurses manage all the business aspects of their work, while another supported clinical work, such as video conferencing and exchanging critical information with patients, their families, and colleagues.

In addition, AMN Healthcare, along with NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, entered into a StigmaFree Company partnership. NAMI provides AMN Healthcare with its expertise and resources to help us cultivate a culture supportive of mental health.

A recent initiative that AMN Healthcare launched is the Care for Caregivers Grant Program. This program helps reduce the stresses that come with life-changing events. The grants, with awards of up to $5,000, are meant to help caregivers and their families cope with expenses during life’s setbacks. AMN Healthcare partnered with the Dallas Foundation, a non-profit 501(c) organization, who will help manage the program. As these are grants, nothing needs to be paid back.

Recent Bill Supports Nurses’ Mental Health and Wellbeing

The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act (HR 1667) was passed by Congress and signed into law on March 18, 2022. The bill, which received bipartisan support, was named after Dr. Lorna Breen, a physician working at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, who committed suicide on April 26, 2020, after working around the clock for weeks to treat COVID-19 patients.

The new law is intended to support healthcare workers’ mental health and provides funding of up to $135 million in mental health education and awareness initiatives. These services help to reduce stigma, provide training, and encourage health care professionals to seek care, reduce burnout, and suicide prevention.

The AMN Healthcare 2021 Survey of Registered Nurses illustrates the pandemic’s impact on the mental health and wellbeing of nurses, highlights trends of nurses seeking advanced education and training, and provides unique viewpoints on diversity, equality, and inclusion in healthcare environments.

To access the survey results, including the audio version and eBook, visit here.

Guttormson, J.L., Calkins, K., Mcandrew, N.S., Fitzgerald, J., Losurdo, H., & Loonsfoot, D. (2021). COVID-19 Pandemic: Impact on Nurses Working in Critical Care in the United States.
Mental Health America (2020). The Mental Health of Healthcare Workers in COVID-19.