What do our nurses need right now?

Last week I had the pleasure of chairing a webinar panel of leading critical care nurses, as we asked the question, “What do our Critical Care nurses need right now?”. Although the webinar focussed on nurses, many of the issues were widely relevant to other professionals and beyond critical care.

A recently published report on the mental health of UK nurses and midwives highlighted the pre-pandemic context of a committed and motivated workforce but nevertheless vulnerable to mental health impacts of work. This is due to working conditions, a culture of not feeling they can seek help, and the impact of not being able to deliver the level and quality of care they trained for. During this pandemic, this has clearly been exacerbated.

The webinar panel recognised that whether you are frontline clinical, a manager, or working more at a strategic level, right now you are probably feeling the impacts of the working under extreme demands and giving above and beyond. These include, but are not limited to, struggling with thinking clearly, thinking back to things you have witnessed, fatigue, nervous energy or edgy mood, anger, guilt, and feeling overwhelmed.

In our discussion, we highlighted the need for a longer-term workforce solution, investing in the training and support needs of our redeployed and core staff, and maintaining critical care nursing ratios as outlined by GPICS, and limiting staff movement out of ICU to fill rota gaps on the wards.  We acknowledged the need to consider the mental health and support of staff at all levels, and work towards better ways of training our leaders to get the best out of people and lead with compassion while looking after themselves. We talked about relationships, and how bad behaviours are tolerated all too often have likely been exacerbated by the recent higher levels of stress.

And of course, we highlighted the age old problem of how hard it can be to admit to feeling the impact of work stress, and our hope that over time as we keep sharing the message as a community that this work may be rewarding, but it often takes more than it gives: it is okay to not be okay

With thanks to the panel: Andrea Baldwin, Julie Platten, Catherine Plowright, and Suman Shrestha.

To access a free recording of the webinar, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bg8jsuzvq3k&t=1s

Our next webinar, “From Debrief to Story Sharing”, will be on 3rd September discussing ways to share stories safely. For more information & to register visit https://bit.ly/2C6RT1P

If you are an intensive care society member, you can access confidential psychological support here

You can access the above mentioned report on nurse and midwife mental health here: https://bit.ly/2Q4Qz2J