Critical Care Nursing and Mental Health

Call for participants:  Mental Health and Well-being of Critical Care Nurses: A Study During and Beyond the Covid-19 Pandemic 

The demands of critical care nursing are difficult even in normal times. Around one third of critical care nurses (CCNs) experience severe burnout, and 86 percent experience one of its three classic symptoms of exhaustion, depersonalisation and reduced personal accomplishment. It is an extremely rewarding, but highly stressful job. COVID-19 has only served to intensify these mental health challenges within the profession with CCNs experiencing a number of immediate challenges ranging from increased patient to nurse ratios, the uncomfortable nature of PPE, long shifts, patient distress, rising death rates, and personal/family infection. These fears have all further increased CCNs’ intense emotional stress and trauma. Worse still, the media perception of nurses as “heroes and angels” often leads the wider public to perceive people within the profession as super human and to overlook the real effects of working in such an environment for a prolonged period. CCNs are therefore suffering in silence and have had little or no opportunity to voice their experiences and explain what is actually happening to them and their patients on the frontline. 

Our project seeks, first and foremost, to give a voice back to the critical care nurse so that there is a much greater understanding of the mental challenges of the profession and so that appropriate supportive measures can be developed that improve working conditions. We plan to interview 24 critical care nurses four times over a seven-month period to understand the changing nature of mental health challenges during what is likely to be a challenging winter. The data collected will enable us to develop a deeper body of knowledge about the mental health of CCNs through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, to highlight best practice, to explore where there are shortfalls in mental health provision, and to make recommendations for addressing mental health and well-being in critical care practice. Outputs will include: a toolkit for offering advice, support and coping strategies for emotionally difficult care environments helping CNNs to maintain individual / organisational resilience and well-being; recommendations for NHS management and policy makers seeking to maintain well-being in times of crisis; a podcast for CCNs and a general audience to engage with the findings and recommendations; and a public exhibition to showcase anonymised findings and lessons for the general public to demystify critical care nursing.

In order to carry out the research, however, we need volunteers to participate and share their own views and experiences of mental health and well-being in the profession. We are looking for any active critical care nurse who is open to discussing mental health and well-being to shed light on what is a too often ignored and overlooked subject. 

What would you be committing to? 

  • An initial 60-90 minute interview in August/September 2020 about your experiences around mental health and well-being in critical care nursing. 
  • Three follow up 60 minute interviews in November 2020, January 2021 and March 2021 to track the mental health experiences across the seven month period – so four interviews in total
  • All interviews will be a confidential conversation and an opportunity for voice 
  • Interviews will be held online (skype, zoom etc) at your convenience in the given months

Who are we? 

We are a collection of seven researchers from across three universities in the north of England. The project is led by Dr Martyn Griffin (University of Durham) and Nicki Credland (University of Hull) and the British Association of Critical Care Nurses (BACCN). There is decades of experience within the team with practical hands-on critical care nursing, mental health nursing as well as a deep academic understanding of well-being at work. We are a friendly, enthusiastic team with a passion for improving the working lives of critical care nurses. 

How do I sign up? 

If you are interested in signing up to the project and/or if you have any questions about the project, then please do not hesitate to contact Dr Martyn Griffin via email: martyn.a.griffin@durham.ac.uk

We look forward to hearing from you and really hope you will consider taking part in this much needed research. 

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