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Burnout and depression rising among B.C. nurses: report

Last Updated Sep 29, 2020 at 8:45 pm PDT

VANCOUVER (CityNews) — Burnout and depression is on the rise among B.C. nurses, according to a new survey by UBC and the B.C. Nurses Union.

Once COVID-19 started impacting British Columbians, nurses have been on the front lines working around the clock to keep people safe but their mental health has taken a serious hit.

“Nurses were already struggling under significant workloads. They were working an enormous amount of overtime in order to keep the system afloat,” BCNU president, Christine Sorensen tells CityNews.

But when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, it added an unexpected layer of stress.

A new survey from UBC and the BCNU shows 41 per cent of nurses suffered from anxiety and depression at the height of the pandemic.

That is a 10 per cent jump compared to last year as now, three out of five nurses report feeling emotionally exhausted.

“Essentially equivalent to about 5,000 additional nurses meeting the criteria for these mental health problems within the span of six months,” UBC’s Assistant professor Farinaz Havaei says.

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Sorensen added nurses are also fearful of contracting COVID themselves or spreading it to family, friends or people in the community.

Half of the 3,600 nurses who took part in the survey said their workplaces do not have enough nurses.

Earlier this month, the NDP promised to add more nurses to the healthcare system before calling a snap election.

“We ask our elected officials or those seeking election, what they will do to support healthcare in this province?” Sorensen says.

As COVID cases continue to trend upward, nurses will continue to play a critical role in the months ahead.

But Havaei says preventing burnout will be a team effort.

“Policymakers, health employers, the B.C. Nurses Union, frontline workers and even the patients. Everyone working together to develop an effective and efficient pandemic management plan,” Havaei she says.