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PTSD levels among nurses deemed a ‘growing concern’

Study urges better understanding and measurement of post-traumatic stress disorder
PTSD for nurses

Study urges better understanding and measurement of post-traumatic stress disorder and the workplace factors associated with it

Exposure to factors associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as aggression or trauma at work, is widespsread among nurses, a new study suggests.

Reported prevalence of PTSD in nurses varies greatly

Researchers in the US analysed 24 studies on PTSD among nurses from specialties including mental health, emergency medicine and acute care, and have deemed the condition a growing concern for the profession.

The analysis looked at research studies published between January 1982 and November 2019, before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The researchers found:

  • Reported prevalence of PTSD among nursing professionals varied

Study urges better understanding and measurement of post-traumatic stress disorder and the workplace factors associated with it


Picture: John Behets

Exposure to factors associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as aggression or trauma at work, is widespsread among nurses, a new study suggests. 

Reported prevalence of PTSD in nurses varies greatly

Researchers in the US analysed 24 studies on PTSD among nurses from specialties including mental health, emergency medicine and acute care, and have deemed the condition ‘a growing concern’ for the profession.

The analysis looked at research studies published between January 1982 and November 2019, before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The researchers found:

  • Reported prevalence of PTSD among nursing professionals varied greatly, likely due to different methods of measuring it or its symptoms, while the factors associated with PTSD are widespread.
  • Factors included: exposure to aggression at work; years in practice; participating in traumatic events such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation; witnessing extensive haemorrhaging or open wounds; and workplace frustrations, among others.
  • Increased PTSD symptoms among nurses due to the death or serious injury of an infant, child or adolescent patient were commonly found in the literature.

Researchers call for improved understanding of PTSD factors

The researchers concluded that a better understanding of the factors that influence PTSD was needed to help mitigate its harmful effects, as well as a consistent means of measuring PTSD to assess its prevalence across nursing specialties.

Several of the papers reviewed also explored organisational debriefing as a supportive factor to help mitigate PTSD, but not all debriefing experiences were found to be beneficial for nurses; in fact, one study found this process increased symptoms.

Co-author Michelle Schuster said the researchers wanted to highlight the phenomenon of PTSD within the nursing profession.

‘We hope this article brings greater awareness and insight into what nurses might be experiencing,’ she said.

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 Study could provide a framework for interventions to support nurses

‘A better understanding of the factors influencing PTSD can provide insight into ways to potentially mitigate the harmful impact of PTSD in order to promote nurse well-being.’

The researchers suggested the study could help provide a framework for the design of multi-targeted interventions to support nurses and reduce the risk of PTSD.


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