Hospital nurses suffer from depression at twice the average rate

Hospital nurses suffer depression at twice the rate of the general population, according to a study published in the May/June issue of Clinical Nurse Specialist. In fact, nurses showed depressive symptoms at a rate of 18 percent, double the national norm of 9 percent.

Researchers at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation used surveys from 1,171 hospital-employed nurses in North Carolina to examine how nurses' depression affects the quality of care they provide patients.

Despite the frequency of stressful occurrences in healthcare settings--a common trigger of depression--the study showed that nurses don't always recognize depression in themselves.

"People assume because we're nurses that we take care of ourselves," Susan Letvak, associate professor of nursing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Nursing told HealthLeaders Media.  "We don't want to ever consider ourselves as not the cheerful happy nurse going into work every day."

The researchers noted that advanced practice nurses are well-suited to address the issue at hospitals. They can recognize depression in staff nurses, as well as inform them of available--and confidential--resources to help manage the illness, according to the study.

Therefore, advanced practice nurses should pay particular attention to patient care mistakes or other health problems that make it difficult for nurses to get through the day, Letvak said. She also recommended including discussions about depression in staff meetings, HealthLeaders noted.

According to an article in The Plain Dealer, national and local nursing shortages also may play a role in the high rate of depression among hospital nurses. Whether a lack of candidates or high labor costs, many hospitals have kept nurse staffing ratios low, making nursing more stressful and physically demanding, the article noted.

For more:
- here's the study abstract
- check out the Health Leaders article
- read the Plain Dealer article