May is National Mental Health Month. May is National Nurses Month. The World Health Organization declared 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. This year, instead of having the typical weeklong recognition of nurses the second week of May (Florence Nightingale’s birthday being May 12th), the American Nurses Association declared the entire month nurses month.
Week one focuses on self care: “Nurse self-care is more vital than ever now as we face the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying stress, isolation, and anxiety.” They include links to daily self-care tips on rest/sleeping, nutrition, and exercise—and a way to sign up for a daily “hope-filled message.” Relaxation techniques. “Mindfulness while wearing an N95 Mask.” Building resilience. Safety at work with a focus on anti-bullying efforts. Obviously, these resources and webpages were designed before the COVID-19 pandemic struck our country and frontline nurses, physicians, and emergency personnel could not access sufficient N95 masks and other personal protective equipment–to be mindful and resilient in.
Self-care is important but insufficient. Access to high quality, low-barrier, affordable, confidential, and non-stigmatizing mental health treatment for nurses is an absolute requirement under any circumstances. But especially now when what we are asking our nurses to do—and all nurses, not just ICU and emergency department nurses-—is emotionally taxing and traumatic at unprecedented levels. And now, during a time of a public mental health and substance use disorder crisis, as the American Public Health Association has declared. And states that continue to have antiquated and punitive state licensing laws for nurses and other healthcare providers, requiring providers to reveal any and all mental health treatment, those state laws need to be changed so that they aren’t an additional barrier to to mental health treatment. (see: “Why don’t doctors seek mental health treatment? They’ll be punished for it” Kayla Behbahani and Amber Thompson, Washington Post, May 11, 2020)
Recommended training resources:
Northwest Center for Public Health Practice has a three-module free, self-paced online training on disaster response, including “Stressful effects of disasters on workers.”
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has an excellent six-hour interactive online training program “Psychological first aid.”