The mental well-being of healthcare workers has been a persistent concern that predates the Covid-19 pandemic. However, increases in mental health conditions have been documented among the general population and healthcare workers during the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a survey of 26,174 public healthcare workers in March and April 2021 and found that 52.8% reported symptoms of at least one mental health condition in the past two weeks. Symptoms included depression (30.8%), anxiety (30.3%), PTSD (36.8%) or suicidal ideation (8.4%).
The pandemic has shined a light on the difficulties front-line workers face regarding care, procedural changes, positions and resources. Most noteworthy and underrated is the psychological stress experienced by nurses and other clinicians in hands-on roles.
According to SIA, travel nursing accounts for roughly 60% of the healthcare staffing market and experienced an impressive fivefold increase since 2019. SIA corporate members can access the “US Staffing Industry Forecast” report for more information. As such, this article focuses on the mental health of travel nurses and resources offered by travel nurse firms. As more awareness is created around the impact of mental health of nurses, staffing firms have taken steps to address mental health by offering programs that support not only their own internal staff, but their temporary employees as well.
As part of the American Rescue Plan of 2021, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, received congressional funding to deliver a national awareness and education campaign to safeguard and improve the mental health of workers. The CDC offers websites, resources and webinars as well.
According to a review of the websites of the 40 largest travel nurse firms, 58% of firms mentioned wellness programs as part of their benefits. The most common program mentioned was an employee assistance program, or EAP, which is a confidential work-based intervention program designed to assist workers in resolving personal problems that may be adversely affecting work performance. Common issues include mental illness, substance abuse, relationship challenges, workplace violence and financial problems. EAPs are typically offered to individuals at no cost as the employer covers the expense directly or as part of a bundle of insurance and other benefit plans.
Additional wellness tools include websites and apps such as Talkspace, which is an online therapy platform with confidential support from a dedicated, licensed therapist who specializes in applicable areas such as depression, anxiety, parenting and trauma counseling.
Nursing is a profession associated with high levels of stress, long hours and risk of burnout syndrome, according to The National Library of Medicine. Staffing firms have an opportunity to extend mental health programs to temporary workers to address the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of travel staff who are exposed to stress and burnout, like that of their full-time counterparts. Investments in mental health resources can result in substantial gains for all involved — the staffing firm, clients and nurses. This prioritization of wellbeing can enhance workforce retention, boost the mental health of nurses and improve patient outcomes.