Investigation of mental health of ICU nurses in the COVID-19 pandemic: A National Study

Introduction: Health professionals appear to be at high risk of deteriorating their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence of psychological impact on groups of these professionals suggests that the risk to mental health, as a direct result of the pandemic, is real and significant.

Purpose: The assessment of mental health indicators such as burnout, anxiety and depression in ICU nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methodology: A simultaneous correlation study was conducted on a sample of 275 ICU Nurses (109 General ICU and 166 ICU-19), who came from 45 Hospitals (39 General and 6 University) that covered all health Regions of the country. Data were collected in February 2022 with a self-report questionnaire, which included: a) demographic and occupa- tional characteristics, b) the Mini-Z Burnout Scale to assess burnout, c) the GAD-7 scale to assess stress, d) the PHQ-2 scale for assessing depression.

Results: 2 in 3 nurses reported significant burnout (66.5%), with those with more than 20 years of experience show- ing a lower incidence of burnout (p = 0.034). More than half of the nurses (58.2%) reported clinically significant stress (34.2% moderate and 24.0% severe). Women had a higher incidence of anxiety than men (p = 0.019) There is evidence that age over 50 years and working in University Hospitals acted protectively as they were associated with a lower likelihood of anxiety disorder (p <10%). Regarding depression, similarly more than half of the nurses (57.5%) reported symptoms of severe depressive mood. Women (p = 0.025) as well as nurses in hospitals of Thessaloniki and in cities with a small number of inhabitants (p = 0.038) had a higher frequency of depression. Previous service over 20 years (p = 0.006) acts protectively as it is associated with a lower incidence of depressive disorder. No difference was found in the mental health indicators between General ICU and COVID-19 ICU, nor was there a correlation with the employment status (permanent, contracted), the level of studies and the number of ICU beds of the Occupational Hospital.

Conclusions: ICU nurses during the pandemic period showed a significant burden on mental health, which was associated with demographic and occupational characteristics and manifested by high rates of burnout, clinically significant stress and severe depression or lethargy.