By Sarah A. Delgado
We need to change the future for nurses. Even before the pandemic, nurses suffered high rates of burnout and a disproportionate risk of suicide. But the pandemic could be a tipping point that leads many nurses to change careers, leave their jobs, or retire early.
Moral distress, the consequence of feeling constrained from taking ethical action, was well-documented before the pandemic, particularly among critical care nurses providing end-of-life care. Additional research conducted before 2020 demonstrates that nurses were experiencing post-traumatic stress due to the suffering they witnessed and the demands of their work.
During the pandemic, surges in critically ill patients have led to untenable workloads. The distress of end-of-life care is heightened by restrictions on visitation and increased mortality rates. In addition, shortages of basic personal protective equipment contribute to fear and a sense of betrayal.
While the pre-pandemic state of the nursing profession was concerning, the pandemic creates imminent peril.