Mental Health Now a Serious Concern for Hard Working Nurses
A BBC report indicates that staff ill health on account of mental health issues has doubled throughout England in the past four years. The BBC revealed 41,112 staff were off sick with depression, stress, and anxiety in 2014 – up from previous figures of 20,207 in 2010. NHS England have acknowledged more needs to be done to support staff with mental health problems but have not outlined what these measures will be. The obvious question is, what is causing this alarming increase in mental health problems amongst nursing staff? The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said it was down to ‘relentless pressure’ on staff and staff shortages with long shifts further compounding the problem.
Early intervention seems to be the logical answer with stress reduction and detection programmes. It is ironic that with 1.25m staff employed to care for others there does not seem to be enough done to care for the carers. Several companies such as internet giant Google Inc., BP, and even the Bank of England introduced programmes that included breaks during shifts to engage in various ways to take time out. The rationale being simple; address the increasing mental health problems, improve staff well-being, create a happier work force and this should result in increased productivity and outcomes.
Is the NHS Letting its Staff Down?
Does the increasing mental health problems amongst nurses mean the NHS is letting its staff down? Many will argue that a better staff experience will lead to improved patient care. The more you invest in your staff, the better the quality of care provided. Research conducted in 2012 for the NHS trade unions involved a comprehensive survey of NHS employees across all Agenda for Change occupations, exploring their working hours, job satisfaction and levels of morale and motivation. The survey paints a picture of a workforce badly affected by staff shortages, high levels of stress, long working hours and low levels of morale, with around two-thirds considering leaving their job. These results do not come as a surprise as all professions in the NHS are under increased pressure. The statistics reflect what nursing staff have been saying for many years. Staff feel burnt out and undervalued, it’s the same old story and nurses already know this all too well. So what can we do about it? Sitting around waiting for a change isn’t helpful.
Nurses at all levels should be encouraged to look at how to actively build stress reduction plans into their shifts, Similar to Google Inc., should nurses be trialling concepts such as five minute mindfulness programmes into working patterns? One group of nurses in a crisis team decided to have three minute fitness breaks scheduled into their routine. At designated times they would stop and have one of the staff members act as military style drill sergeant instructing others to perform some office exercises. Expecting nurse managers and hospital directors to put measures in place both to support staff that have mental health problems, but to also be aware of the warning signs and be proactive in preventing staff from becoming ill in the first place may be a way down the line.
However, we can start with some fun and innovative ways to reduce stress and break up the relentless pressure of the day. Do you have any fun ideas to start the process? What does your staff team do? Let’s get the ball rolling ourselves, write to firstname.lastname@example.org and ideas that are published will receive a £20 voucher!