COVID-19: nurses report feeling guilt over decisions related to pandemic

Mental health charity sees jump in calls from nurses feeling the pressure over choices they are having to make at work and at home

Picture shows a child in a car touching the window and a woman outside the car touching it from the other side.  A mental health charity has seen a jump in calls for help from nurses whose well-being is affected by pressure of choices they have to make.
Picture: iStock

Nurses’ well-being is being affected by feelings of guilt over decisions they are having to make amid the COVID-19 pandemic, says mental health charity the Laura Hyde Foundation.

The charity, which aims to ensure that healthcare and emergency services staff have access to mental health support, says it has seen a 62% increase in requests for help since the start of the pandemic, the majority of them from nurses.

Charity founder and trustee Liam Barnes said nurses who have moved out of their homes or sent their children away temporarily due to fear of infection have reported feeling guilty about these decisions.

Limited interaction with loved ones is also affecting nurses’ mental health

Those who are unable to move away may be trying to segregate spaces in the home and worrying about infecting others, he said.

‘Some feel they can’t hug their kids or sleep with their partners anymore, and that is putting strains on relationships.’

Mr Barnes said some nurses feel guilty about being unable to treat their regular patients, as services have been reduced or suspended, or staff have been redeployed. Some are even questioning if nursing is the right profession for them, he said.

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‘People are trying to manage multi-levels of trauma’

Psychotherapist Claire Goodwin-Fee said feelings of guilt among nurses were to be expected.

‘People are trying to manage multi-levels of trauma – guilt is a very normal emotion, but pair it with these unique circumstances and it’s the perfect storm,’ she said.

Six weeks ago Ms Goodwin-Fee co-founded a free service called Frontline 19 to provide emotional support to nurses and other front-line healthcare workers, and more than 2,000 psychologists, counsellors and psychotherapists have signed up to provide therapy sessions.

Advice if your mental health is affected

Mental health charity Mind’s head of workplace well-being Emma Mamo offers the following advice for nurses whose mental health is being affected by COVID-19:

  • If you notice changes to feelings, thoughts or behaviours that last longer than two weeks and keep returning or having an impact on daily life, talk to someone trusted, such as a loved one or health professional
  • Most GP surgeries are still able to offer consultations via phone or online, so check with a local practice
  • Try to build physical and relaxation activities into daily routines – exercise with an online workout, yoga or meditation, dance, listen to music, or do something fun


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