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Nurses report heightened anxiety and depression during COVID first wave

Survey suggests younger nurses with less experience had less resilience than older colleagues
Two medics in personal protective equipment, one looking concerned as the other appears upset

Survey of nurses working in respiratory care in May suggests younger nurses with less experience showed less resilience than older colleagues

Nurses working with respiratory patients during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic experienced significant anxiety and depression, research suggests.

Younger nurses with less experience had higher levels of anxiety and depression and lower levels of resilience, according to a study by Glasgow Caledonian University, the University of Southampton and Edge Hill University in Lancashire .

The researchers surveyed nurses working in respiratory care in

Survey of nurses working in respiratory care in May suggests younger nurses with less experience showed less resilience than older colleagues

Two medics in personal protective equipment, one looking concerned as the other appears upset
Picture: iStock

Nurses working with respiratory patients during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic experienced significant anxiety and depression, research suggests.

Younger nurses with less experience had higher levels of anxiety and depression and lower levels of resilience, according to a study by Glasgow Caledonian University, the University of Southampton and Edge Hill University in Lancashire.

The researchers surveyed nurses working in respiratory care in May this year during the first wave of the pandemic. They obtained responses from 255 nurses, including 74 who had switched roles to work with COVID-19 patients, and some who had returned to practice to help out in the crisis.

Being redeployed into unfamiliar areas prompted increased anxiety

Of the 191 who responded to questions about anxiety, 40 said they had experienced moderate to severe or severe anxiety. Asked about depression, 181 responded and 31 of them reported moderate, moderately severe or severe symptoms.

Analysis of the results suggested that nurses aged 18 to 35 were more likely to score highly for anxiety and depression and were less resilient than older colleagues.

University of Southampton nurse researcher Kate Lippiett said: ‘The sense we had as clinical nurses ourselves was that a lot of people were being redeployed into unfamiliar areas and that was prompting a lot of anxiety, and the results back that up – particularly for younger, less experienced nurses.’

Study findings underline need to support nurses' mental health and well-being

Many who took part in the study – published in Respiratory Medicine – said they felt overwhelmed or exhausted juggling work and family life.

Of the total 255 nurses who responded to the study, 29 reported they had difficulty supporting their household financially and emotionally.

Principal investigator Nicola Roberts, a senior lecturer in the department of nursing and community health at Glasgow Caledonian University, said the findings demonstrated the need to support nurses’ mental health and well-being.

‘As the pandemic continues it is vital that we support NHS staff to be able to cope and increase resilience,’ she said.

The research team has launched a follow-up survey to explore how nurses working in respiratory care are coping over the winter period.

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