Nurses in California organize to support their mental health

Nurses sitting on floor

Nurses are among the many frontline workers that have faced the brunt of the pandemic. During its many peaks, while hospitals filled, the demands on nurses grew. From staff and protective gear shortages to watching countless patients succumb to the virus without being able to have family members with them, the physical and emotional demands took a major toll.

Rhitu Chatterjee explores the story of San Francisco traveling nurse Michael Odell in this NPR story. For Odell, the mental toll of being a nurse during the pandemic became too much. Two days after abruptly leaving work in the middle of his shift, Odell’s body was found by a search party in an apparent suicide.

From NPR:

“A recent study showed that more than 70% of health care workers in the country have symptoms of anxiety and depression, 38% have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and 15% have had recent thoughts of suicide or self-harm.”

“The heaviness of work during the pandemic hit Odell particularly hard. He was the kind of person who “cared deeply about everybody he met,” says Joshua Paredes. “He took time to get to know people and get to know their stories.”

Now, Odell’s friends are working together to help nurses get the support they need. They’re establishing the Don’t Clock Out project where they are recruiting healthcare workers to offer support to their peers.

Hospitals have a critical support role to play, according to Dr. Wendy Dean, co-founder of the non-profit organization Moral Injury of Healthcare. In this Kaiser Health News story, Dean points to everyday concerns such as groceries and transportation.

“We want nurses to realize that you’re not alone,” says John LeBlanc, UCSF nurse and friend of Odell “You don’t have to check out early. You know, we’re here to talk to you before you take those last drastic steps.”

Read more about the nurses’ efforts to support each other here.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–8255 (En Español: 1–888–628–9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1–800–799–4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.


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