Now, as nurses are hailed as health care heroes during the pandemic, we're faced with what to do about these psychological injuries, not only for the 4 million nurses
in the US — the largest health care workforce in America — but for the rest of us who depend on them.
For the past five years, I've examined the types of psychological trauma that nurses experience. Along with Dr. John Thompson, my co-author, I've described them in our 2019 book
, prophetic as it was published six months before Covid-19 first appeared in China.
Prior to the pandemic, nurses faced ethical and personal safety dilemmas during disasters and other emergencies. They saw patients suffer, not only from illness itself, but because of health care interventions, otherwise known as medically induced trauma (think of a patient on a ventilator).
In a follow-up study after the book was published, I dug deeper, collected information from nurses, and learned of yet another type of psychological injury: insufficient resource trauma
. This occurs when nurses don't have the staff, supplies, knowledge or access to other professionals to fulfill ethical or professional responsibilities. The pandemic has been a dark catalyst to seeing this urgent concern. In a survey of 32,000 nurses
just completed by the American Nurses Association, 68% of nurses said they are worried about being short-staffed and 87% are very or somewhat afraid t