Registered nurses in all specialties are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many, especially those in the trenches saving lives, are repeatedly exposed to high levels of stress and trauma. Like soldiers, some may return from this battle with psychological scars that run deep from their time at the frontlines. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has a new diagnostic category, “Trauma and Stressor-related Disorders” which centers the focus of the disorders in the category on adverse events (Pai et al., 2017). Registered nurses, physicians, and first responders responding to global disasters (Neria et al., 2008) and pandemics such as H1N1 (Corley et al., 2010) are more likely to experience PTSD.
We know that our fellow colleagues and registered nurses across the United States express a real fear of contracting and transmitting COVID-19. The fear stems from an inadequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE). Thus far, there has been an inability to contain the spread of the disease.
We need every single national nursing organization to stand up and advocate for the physical and psychological safety and psychological well-being of all registered nurses right now, and ensure they have continued access to resources in the future. Advocacy efforts would of course focus on increasing the production of safe PPE and pain medications, public health funding at the state and local levels to contain the disease (testing, contact tracing, and quarantine) and ensuring when our healthcare heroes come back home after this pandemic, they continue to be fully supported for long-term effects this may be causing.
Gloria E. Barrera, MSN, RN, PEL-CSN
President Elect, Illinois Association of School Nurses; Treasurer, National Association of Hispanic Nurses-Illinois Chapter; Adjunct Professor of Nursing, DePaul University, Saint Xavier University, UIC, Capella
Founder of @NursesThatWow Podcast
Corley, A., Hammond, N. E., & Fraser, J. F. (2010). The experiences of health care workers employed in an Australian intensive care unit during the H1N1 Influenza pandemic of 2009: A phenomenological study. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 47(5), 577-585. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2009.11.015
Neria, Y., Nandi, A., & Galea, S. (2008). Posttraumatic stress disorder following disasters: a systematic review. Psychological Medicine, 38(4), 467-480. doi:10.1017/S0033291707001353
Pai, A., Suris, A. M., & North, C. S. (2017). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the DSM-5: Controversy, Change, and Conceptual Considerations. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 7(1), 7. doi:10.3390/bs7010007