Pandemic continues to increase mental strain on colleagues

January 14, 2021

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There's no doubt that the ongoing pandemic has and continues to impact people's wellbeing. Some latest colleague survey results reveal the mental health burden is increasing.

"Not surprisingly, the results obtained from our colleagues surveys in October 2020 reflect a greater number of the workforce experiencing the mental strain of these many months of dealing with COVID-19 and the recent surge in hospital admissions," said Robin Lally, PhD, professor in the UNMC College of Nursing.

The UNMC wellness team partnered with the UNMC College of Nursing and Nebraska Medicine on various wellness surveys in 2020.

Compared to results obtained in July, reports of depressive symptoms increased significantly in October 2020 (from 26% to 43%), as did reports of recurring thoughts and worries about COVID-19 (from 34% to 49%), and anxiety (from 22% to 44%) among the 320 colleagues completing the October survey (331 completed the survey in July 2020). The increase in mental health burden crossed all professions although most respondents to the October survey indicated that they held roles in administration, administrative support and leadership (n = 160).

Other respondents included nurses (n = 70), technicians, therapists and lab/pharmacy professionals (n = 59), and Advanced Practice Providers (n = 23). Therefore, we confirmed that professional role is not the only important factor in understanding and helping address wellness during the pandemic.

It is established that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the mental health of Americans. Dr. Lally noted that it is good to give grace to colleagues given that we do not know the multiple personal and professional factors that may impact their mood and behaviors at this trying time.

"I like to remind students and colleagues to give themselves grace," Dr. Lally said. "While it is easy to dwell on our shortcomings while trying to remain resilient in the face of the challenges brought about by the pandemic, self-appreciation for all that we do to make each day better in some way is an important gift to remember to give ourselves."

Dr. Lally adds that self-appreciation is enjoying what is good about ourselves, acknowledge that all people have strengths as well as weaknesses, and allowing ourselves to revel in our goodness without evoking feelings of arrogance or overconfidence.

There are many ways to practice self-appreciation. Here is one (repeat daily for a week to get started):

  • Each day notice positive things that happen around you. Make a list mentally or in a journal: What went well today (big or small)?
  • Add: What was your role in making events go well? (might be an active or a passive role)
  • How do you feel about this event and your role? (put emotion words to the feelings)
  • Share the good things and your role in these with close friends/family, or journal to review later. Invite friends and family to join you in their own practice.

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