Many frontline nurses, especially females are not sleeping well, are depressed, and suffering heavy burnouts since the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic.
A study on how nurses are coping with the pandemic, at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi reports more mental problems than before the pandemic.
The study also shows female nurses are likely to be more affected compared to their male counterparts.
“Females nurses at our institution showed higher rates of all mental disorders compared to their male counterparts,” wrote doctors Sayed Ali, Jasmit Shah of the hospital, and Zohray Talib of California University, US.
In their study ‘COVID-19 and mental well-being of nurses in a tertiary facility in Kenya,” published in the journal Plos One last week (1st July 2021) the trio had engaged 171 of 255 nurses at the institution.
Of the participants, 70 percent were females with 61 percent married. The average age of participants was 34 years suggesting people with relatively young families. More than half, 111 of the nurses were frontline workers directly engaged in COVID-19 care.
Majority of the nurses, the report says had cared for about 5–20 patients and about 67 percent had lost a patient to COVID-19.
“Depression, anxiety, insomnia, distress, and burnout were reported in 45.9 percent, 48.2 percent, 37 percent, 29 percent and 48 percent of all nurses.”
Less than two percent had reported a prior history or diagnosis of any mental health disorder.
Frontline nurses reported experiencing more moderate to severe symptoms of all the mental health disorders than the second-line nurses.
On comparing the differences between gender and mental health symptoms, females reported experiencing more symptoms of all the mental health disorders than males.
This, however, the authors say is not unique since other studies have also shown that female healthcare workers, especially nurses are more prone to psychological disorders, including burnout due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A study carried out in 34 hospitals in Wuhan China and published in March reported women health workers experiencing more severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, and distress compared to their male counterparts.
A similar study among 547 male and female nurses attending to Covid 19 patients in Bangladesh reported the women to have developed more mental problems compared to their male counterparts.
“Psychological symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress were more prevalent in female nurses than male nurses,” said the study published in the journal Middle East Current Psychiatry in April.
While these studies do not explain why the higher distress in female nurses, Prof Neill Epperson of the University of Colorado, US says this is partially explained by the bigger burden women face in family care.
Prof Epperson in a communication on the mental impact Covid 19 is having on career women, says female nurses are likely to suffer more distress because of more patient bedside hours compared to male counterparts.
“Female nurses have more patient bedside hours currently the epicenter of the pandemic, taking care of patients with COVID-19 and managing the distress of family members of the sick and dying.”
This, Prof Epperson says added to the female burden of caring for their families including children and elderly parents may largely explain the higher distress in this group.
Another study which had sampled 2,166 health workers handling Covid 19 patients in 32 countries including Kenya found health workers more distressed than the general population.
The study where Kenya data had been prepared by Jeldah Mokeira Nyamache of the NGO – North Star Alliance, said most health workers are turning to their families, worship, and prayers to cope with the Covid 19 distress.
By Gatonye Gathura