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You can measure the massive toll of COVID-19 in various ways: the lives lost; the jobs eliminated; the strain on the health care system. For nurses, the toll can also be measured in the emotional and mental distress and anguish they experience in caring for patients and worrying how to protect their own families. For nurses looking for resources to help with their mental health, the American Nurses Foundation in partnership with other major nursing organizations in May launched the Well-being Initiative — a set of resources to help nurses manage the stress and overcome the trauma caused by COVID-19.
“We knew that going into the pandemic nurses were already under extraordinary stress, and that this would cause more,” said Kate Judge, executive director of the Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American Nurses Association (ANA), in an interview. “All of us are concerned that this has taken and will take a toll that we could not ever imagine on nurses and the nursing profession. We all have to do whatever we can to mitigate that.”
The Foundation partnered with the ANA, the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), and the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) to develop the tools for the Well-being Initiative. The goal, said Judge, is to provide direct assistance that is varied in its approach. The tools include:
- Nurses Together: Connecting through Conversations: Virtual voice or video calls led be a volunteer from ENA to provide peer support and a safe space to discuss such topics as self-care, resilience and bereavement.
- Narrative Expressive Writing: A five-week program in which nurses respond to writing prompts related to COVID-19. A responder provides confidential feedback.
- Happy App: This app connects nurses to a Support Giver team member.
- Moodfit Mobile App: With this app, nurses can set and track goals for sleep, nutrition, exercise, mindfulness and other activities.
- Self-Assessment Tool: Not yet launched, this tool recommended by APNA will help nurses identify mental health needs and direct them to resources.
- Hotlines and Provider Resources: Also not yet launched, the resources will include instructions for finding a mental health provider, how to get a referral, and what to seek in a provider.
As of early June, some 800 to 900 nurses had used the tools, Judge estimates. Other resources will be coming, she says, taking into account usage data and feedback. For instance, the initiative just launched a mental health survey, “Pulse on the Nation’s Nurses.”
Judge notes that nurses are using the tools to discuss topics besides COVID-19. Nurses, she said, “are really bringing their whole selves” and talking about such issues as work-life balance and financial pressures, for instance.
The tools will continue to be offered for some time. “We know that there is an ebb and flow to this disaster,” Judge said. “We are far from through it.”