A new study has found that care home nurses require support for the emotional trauma they faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The University of East Anglia has published a new report investigating the impact of the pandemic on nurses working in care homes. The findings suggest that care home nurses were unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, and how this impacted their mental health, causing emotional trauma.
The findings, collated by the University of East Anglia and the University of Leicester, are published in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship.
Supporting care home nurses with emotional trauma
The researchers propose that frontline workers need a mental health and wellbeing strategy to help promote recovery from emotional trauma and moral distress.
According to Mind, emotional trauma is caused by experiencing stressful, frightening or distressing events. Traumatic events can make you feel frightened, humiliated, rejected, invalidated, powerless and trapped. The COVID-19 pandemic had an unprecedented effect on the mental health of frontline workers.
Lead researcher Diane Bunn, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said: “Our work shows that care home nurses were completely unprepared for the extraordinary situation they found themselves in during the Covid-19 pandemic and that this has impacted their mental health and wellbeing.
“They had to manage a highly infectious new disease, associated with high mortality, in residents already living with complex clinical conditions.
“They did this alongside staff shortages, constantly changing and conflicting guidelines and with minimal external professional support.
“Health and social care staff are still very much in a recovery phase. They need time to recover from all that happened during the pandemic and many of them will need counselling and mental health support for some time.
“Supporting care home nurses to recover from the pandemic is essential to maintain a healthy, stable workforce.”
The research team carried out in-depth interviews with care home nurses about their experiences of the pandemic, across homes for older people in England and Scotland. They particularly focused on the nurses’ resilience and mental wellbeing.
“All of the nurses we spoke to described being attentive to the needs of others, but less attentive to their own needs, which came at personal cost,” said Bunn.
Strategies to support nurses with their recovery
The researchers suggest a range of strategies to help nurses accept and recover from their experiences. This includes:
- Bespoke mental health and wellbeing strategy for care home nurses in the current pandemic recovery period and ensure that this is ongoing and adaptable for future pandemics and disasters.
- Wider professional and government recognition of the specialist skills required of care home nurses.
- Revisit guidance to better prepare for any future pandemics and disasters in care homes
- Involvement of care home nurses in the development of disaster-response policies in care homes.
- Consistency of guidelines, and research-informed methods for effective communication of guidelines.
“Support for care home nurses will likely benefit other care-home workers either directly through wider roll-out, or indirectly through improved wellbeing of nurse leaders,” added Bunn.