Mental Health and Wellness//August 23, 2023

Nurses Estimated to be 38% More Likely to Have Suicidal Thoughts


In a study published last year it was found that nurses are more likely to have suicidal thoughts than any other profession in the U.S.

The Mayo Clinic study, which was published in the November 2021 issue of The American Journal of Nursing, reported that 5.5% of nurses experienced suicidal ideation, which is 1% higher than every other profession.

When the researchers looked at factors such as age, gender, race, amount of hours worked, relationship status and burnout – it was also estimated that nurses are 38% more likely to experience suicidal thoughts.

The study was based on questionnaire responses from 7,378 nurses with a median age of 51, 92.7% were female & 87.4% were white.

In early 2021, well into the COVID pandemic, the American Nurses Association conducted another survey that reported 23% of clinicians felt depressed and 1% reported having experienced suicidal thoughts in the last 14 days.

As many of these surveys were done over a year ago – it is only reasonable to assume that due to increasing rates of burnout, post traumatic stress disorders, anxiety, sleep disorders and depression, that these rates of suicidal ideation have gone up.

distressed nurse in scrubs

What could be causing nurses to contemplate suicide?

Little Downtime on the Job

Unlike most professions – nursing provides very little downtime time on the job – so much so – there are several viral videos on Instagram and TikTok joking about how much urine a nurse can hold or what a nurse trying to take a lunch break actually looks like. Because taking bathroom/lunch breaks is nearly impossible – when you’re responsible for the lives of 2-7 patients in one 12-hour shift.

Knowledge & Change

Add to the fact that nursing can be stressful, there’s a ton of information, technology, and best practices (which are all constantly changing) to keep up with. During the pandemic – it was not unusual to have patient care guidelines change on a daily basis.

Staffing Shortages

The fact that nurses are leaving the profession in record numbers is news to exactly no one. Shortages are so common in fact that some nurses will work an entire 12-hour shift without a bathroom break, or skip a vacation because they don’t want to burden their unit with extra work.

Life & Death

In many workplaces around the country – if someone dies on the job it’s common for organizations to close the entire office for a day or two and/or provide emotional support resources to those that are grieving that death. But in nursing, death is something that happens on a regular basis – and nurses are often offered little to no support surrounding those incidents. A patient dies – but another patient awaits.

What can be done to reduce suicidal ideation? 

When it comes to reducing suicidal ideation in the nursing profession – no solution is easy or immediately possible. According to Liselotte Dyrbye, MD (an investigator on the Mayo Clinic study) & Holly Carpenter, RN (a senior policy advisor at the American Nurses Association) there are many individual & systemic changes that could influence positive effects. Some of those include:

  • Eliminate administrative tasks that negatively affect patient care
  • Provide sufficient staffing, tools, and resources
  • Erase the stigma associated with having a mental health diagnosis – which can negatively affect nursing licensure
  • Provide mental health screenings and accessible, affordable, and confidential mental health resources
  • Ensure nurses are effectively taking care of their mental health with such things as self-care practices, counseling, and mandatory time-off

What is Next Move is Doing About Mental Health?

Next Move Inc is one of the only travel nurse agencies that is owned and operated by practicing RNs. As such, we personally know the mental toll nursing can take on a clinician which is why we offer the following benefits:

10 Signs You’re Experiencing Burnout & 5 ‘Not Lame’ Solutions

Employee Assistance Program 

Next Move offers all our clinicians a free, confidential, 24/7 emotional health support line for immediate help for those who are feeling overwhelmed or in crisis. This hotline is staffed by licensed behavioral health clinicians who will listen, provide emotional support, tips for healthy coping and referrals to local resources. This support line provides help with:

  • Healthy Living
  • Stress Management
  • Diet & Fitness
  • Overall Wellness
  • Parenting Support
  • Child & Elder Care
  • Learning Programs
  • Special Needs Help
  • Legal Issues
  • Will Preparation
  • Taxes
  • Debt
  • Financial Planning Tools & Assistance

Free Therapy Visits

Next Move also offers all our insured clinicians 3 free therapy visits per incident, per year with a trained counselor. Subsequent visits are treated the same as a regular doctor’s visit and follow the deductible and maximum out of pocket provisions of the health plan selected. In other words: we don’t treat the need to visit a counselor or therapist any different than seeing a general practice physician.

These sessions are designed to support you with:

  • Managing stress, anxiety & depression
  • Improving relationships at home or work
  • Getting guidance on legal and financial concerns
  • Coping with occupational stress and  burnout support
  • Addressing substance use issues

Note for All Clinicians Experiencing Crisis

In 2020, Congress designated the 988 dialing code as a national helpline for those experiencing a mental health crisis, which can be anything from thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress.

988 is different than 911 in that it connects users to a network of over 200 local, independent and state-funded crisis centers equipped to help people with emotional distress or experiencing a suicidal crisis (whereas the focus of 911 is on dispatching emergency medical services, fire and police as needed).

988 is now available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Find Treatment with SAMHSA

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator is a confidential and anonymous source of information for persons seeking treatment facilities in the United States or U.S. Territories for substance use/addiction and/or mental health problems.

If you’d like to learn more about mental health benefits offered by Next Move, please click here.

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