Hospitals & Facilities

Survey: Majority of nurses say the healthcare industry doesn’t prioritize their mental health

Well-being programs could help combat burnout and employment-related behavioral health challenges.
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4 min read

Years after the Covid-19 pandemic sparked a renewed national conversation about healthcare workers’ mental health, many nurses say the industry is still not doing enough to support frontline staff. That’s the takeaway from Trusted Health’s 2023 Frontline Nurse Mental Health and Well-being Survey released Wednesday.

More than 60% of 1,900+ nurses, which the health staffing startup polled via email in April 2023, said they felt the healthcare industry does not prioritize their mental health and well-being. Meanwhile, about a third (32%) of respondents said they felt the industry prioritizes their mental health but lacks adequate measures to support it.

Just 5% said they feel their mental health is prioritized and properly supported in the industry.

More than half (55%) of nurses surveyed also expressed some level of dissatisfaction with the level of support provided by their hospital or health organization, and 70% of respondents said their direct manager has never asked about their mental health.

Those attitudes are largely consistent with previous Trusted surveys. For four straight years, about 95% of nurses said they felt their mental health was either not a priority for the healthcare industry or that there weren’t enough measures to support it, even if it was a priority.

“The overall sentiment of nurses is that the benefits being offered by a lot of hospitals are really just sort of lip service and aren’t actually the kind of meaningful changes that would make nursing a more sustainable career,” Trusted Health Chief Nursing Officer Dani Bowie told Healthcare Brew.

Still, Trusted’s report included some encouraging findings.

The percentage of nurses who said they plan to leave their jobs this year was down slightly from 2022—54% versus 58%, respectively. The survey also found that “nurses who report positive overall mental health are twice as likely to work at a hospital with a peer support program compared to those who rated their mental health as negative.”

The report recommended that the healthcare industry do more to empower nurse managers to support employee mental health, address staffing shortages—a key driver of negative mental health in nurses—and support new nurses with increased responsibilities.

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Healthcare leaders should also offer benefits that “support nurses’ mental health and overall well-being,” according to the report.

“Building up the community of support is critical as we look at how the workforce is engaging with their work and advancing their career,” Bowie said.

Supporting nurse mental health

Shannon McPeek, a neonatal intensive care nurse, told Healthcare Brew that she started Operation Happy Nurse (OHN)—a nonprofit that supports nurse mental health and well-being via an online platform and programming—in response to her own struggles with work-related anxiety and depression.

“I didn’t feel that there were adequate resources in order to help me cope. It wasn’t just dealing with patient deaths or dealing with situations where maybe your patients started going downhill and it was unexpected—that stuff was really hard. But it was also the pressures that you’re under as a nurse,” she said. “I learned that my journey wasn’t unique and that it was actually a really large problem in the nursing profession.”

McPeek said about 80% of the 100+ nurses she surveyed about mental health in 2018 as part of her research before forming OHN reported having anxiety, depression, or both due to the nursing profession—and that’s before the pandemic hit.

OHN introduced its free online stress relief community for nurses in late 2020. The platform now offers everything from yoga classes, podcasts, and weekly recipes to optional monthly meetings with a mental health professional and peer-to-peer support services. The nonprofit also holds in-person Fitness for the Caregivers events across the US and staged a National Nurses Week concert in May.

“We understand that the stress reliever for one person isn’t necessarily a stress reliever for another person,” she said, noting that almost 1,500 nurses utilize OHN’s platform. “You’re able to pick and choose through our resources, to really adapt your profile to meet your needs.”

OHN has partnered with organizations like ConnectRN and The Nursing Beat. McPeek said the nonprofit is “hoping to stem into the hospital administration route soon.” She also wants to eventually offer services for other healthcare workers.

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.