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1 in 5 Nurses is Depressed

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, June 26, 2012

Moreover, depressed people often exhibit low mood, have trouble concentrating, are more accident prone, and have worse time management skills; symptoms that would no doubt harm patient care.

The trouble is nurses often don't recognize depression in themselves.

"People assume because we're nurses that we take care of ourselves," Letvak says. "We don't want to ever consider ourselves as not the cheerful happy nurse going into work every day."

For the Robert Wood Johnson study, researchers analyzed surveys from 1,171 hospital nurses in North Carolina to determine the prevalence of depression, as well as the individual and workplace characteristics associated with the illness.

They used the PHQ-9, a nine-item self-reporting tool developed for use in primary care. In addition to identifying the prevalence of depression, the researchers also found that factors such as body mass index, job satisfaction, and having other of health problems had a significant relationship to a higher total depression score.

Although Letvak knows that nursing is a tough job (she says her role as a nurse manager was "the most difficult job I ever had"), she was still "really surprised" by the study results.

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10 comments on "1 in 5 Nurses is Depressed"


Beverly Evans (2/21/2013 at 4:55 PM)
Thank you for this information. It helps me to know I am not alone. What I would like to know: is there any assistance for nurses who have damaged their careers because of this disease? I have lost several jobs and am having a hard time finding work now. Only since I've been unemployed have I had the opportunity to research the disease. During none of these employments has a manager reached out to me although all the signs were there.During my research I have found that employers have resources to help nurses with depression, I was never offered help, just terminated. I am doing everything I can to get back on my feet, medications, counseling, supplements, exercise, relaxation, etc. but I need some career guidance.

karenpsychrn (7/14/2012 at 11:41 AM)
This is a very hot topic with me, as I have experienced this on more than one occasion in my career, almost leaving nursing at one time. One of the problems with being able to help nurses feel better about themselves and their job is that the people who are in those management positions who are supposed to have an obligation to nurture their nursing staff are not in those positions for that purpose. They are in those positions to keep the bloodline pure and prevent cross breeding. In my 20 years as a nurses, I have had very few experiences of having a manager who gave a darn about their staff. Nurses are afraid to advocate for anyone, let alone themselves, and they become depressed and less productive over time due to things like calling off d/t burnout and fatigue, not doing certain things on the unit for fear of being fired, coming to work and doing just the minimum to get out of there at the end of their shift with all their parts intact. People assume psych nurses "should know what to do and should not feel this way". That is so very wrong, and psych nurses actually can have greater issues with it because we do know what has to be done, but we are not allowed to do what needs to be done for ourselves, which trickles down our patients and other staff. No amount of knowledge can prevent life from happening. Nurses can handle a lot of things if they are supported and nurtured; however, when there is not that major factor present in the milieu, the tire tracks begin to build up from being thrown under the bus repeatedly. Just from my own work area, I would even venture to say that more than 1 in 5 nurses are depressed. The 1 in 5 are just those who are somehow able to report it without being found out and fired for speaking out. It is really sad to see our patients telling us they feel bad for us and that they wish they could do something to make our work easier. they witness what nurses endure at the hand of that mythical management obligated to making the workplace nurse-friendly. My co workers, including those who have been fired over trying to make things better, are visibly depressed but will not go any further than talking amongst themselves because of the current plan by management to get rid of all of the seasoned nurses. THere is much spiritual pain in the ranks of nursing. I hope to see more studies, my own included eventually, about how to fix what is happening to nurses. There is really no need for someone who teaches others how not to be depressed to be depressed themselves. Thank you for opening up this topic. I look forward to more information and ideas.

Ellen Hall (7/13/2012 at 9:04 AM)
Perhaps it isn't the occupation which is responsible for such a high level of depression, but the personalities of the individuals who pursue a career in nursing that is actually the root cause? Just food for thought.