Large Survey Finds Nursing Changes, Burnout From COVID-19

Many nurses may be seeing patients outside their specialty, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause stress for patients and providers.

A day-in-the-life of many nurses looks drastically different than it did several months ago, thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, which is causing many nurses to endure extra anxiety and even take on shifts in different departments.

Nurses' Routines May Change

In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by NurseGrid that consisted of more than 15,000 responses, more than a third (38%) of nurses said that they have been reassigned to treat COVID-19 patients. Even if nurses have not been directed to other units completely, there have been reports of more nurses floating.

“When census is low, nurses are floating more often. We have heard that due to the financial burden, there may be hours cut and furloughs, but it is unclear how that will impact my team specifically,” said Jenna, an oncology nurse practitioner in Virginia.*

And even though many nurses may be staying on the oncology unit, there is still a shortage of skilled nurses, Jenna explained. For example, in her institution, there are not enough nurses who are trained in administering chemotherapy.

Stress, Burnout Are Widespread

The survey also reported that the majority (79%) of nurses were worried about infecting family members/friends, while 61% were worried about becoming infected while at work. Other concerns included burnout (28%) and mental health (27%).

“Clinicians are definitely feeling the effects of anxiety. It’s especially challenging because we have to be supportive of our patients who are, in most cases, alone without their caregivers,” Jenna said. “The dedication to include caregivers in rounds, treatment decisions, and updates is a new obstacle that can be difficult to navigate. Clinicians are faced with burnout in ways they never have been before.”

Healthcare providers are not the only ones who are feeling stressed, too. The survey also found that 23% of nurses are concerned about the increased public complacency when it comes to social distancing/stay-at-home orders. As the pandemic continues to drag on, people may become fatigued of these guidelines and start venturing out.

But Jenna said that when people feel that way, they should write their loved one’s letters as well as take advantage of today’s technology with video calls. “Every time someone feels like breaking the social distancing guidelines, they should ask if it’s worth risking a life,” she said.

“I often share the following advice with patients: The big picture can be overwhelming sometimes (e.g.: When will this quarantine be over? When will the effects from COVID-19 slow/stop?). Focus on whatever part of the situation you can handle. Whether you address issues 1 week, 1 shift, one hour, or one moment at a time - take deep breaths and focus on what you can control. Always try to find a silver lining,” Jenna said.

*Interviewee wished to remain anonymous, and not print her full name or institution.

Read more: Nurses Discuss COVID-19’s Impact on Cancer Care