Most nurses have stressful jobs, especially those who work in hospital settings. They push through tough situations day after day, work long hours, and often deal with patients who are at their worst. Is it any wonder that nurses experience depression at twice the rate of the average person? Eighteen percent of nurses experience depression compared to about 9% of the general population.
Unfortunately, many nurses don’t realize they’re depressed. Some experts suggest that the similarities between depression symptoms and daily nursing job stress may prevent nurses from being able to identify their own symptoms. But while stress is a temporary condition that eases once you get the stressful situation under control, depression stays with you.
Depression in nurses may also present differently than depression in average people. While many people will experience deep sadness or lack interest in doing anything at all, nurses may be unable to make decisions or concentrate on specific activities. Nurses who are depressed may also seem forgetful or may make frequent mistakes while working.
Fatigue that remains no matter how much rest you get and even some physical symptoms such as back, intestinal, or abdominal pain and headaches that won’t go away can also be depression indicators.
One contributing factor to the high rate of depression among nurses is judgment that being depressed means they're less capable of taking care of patients. Another is that others in the field will look down on depressed nurses. In fact, nurses with untreated depression are likely to give lower quality care to patients. Like any illness, depression has a bigger negative impact when left untreated.
Nurses who experience symptoms detailed above and who suspect they’re suffering from depression should seek professional help and consider making changes to allow them to care for themselves. Rest is an essential element to defending against depression as is a healthy, well-balanced diet and regular exercise. Sometimes, however, rest, diet, and exercise are not enough. A professional can diagnose and guide you through the process of becoming healthy again and can prescribe medications if necessary to help you find balance and contentment again. Then you can relax knowing you’re providing your patients the best care possible.