Mayo Clinic: Nurses think about suicide more than other United States workers

(ABC 6 News) – Researchers at Mayo Clinic conducted a study that found nurses are more likely to experience thoughts of suicide than other United States workers. The study also found that nurses having those thoughts are less likely to seek professional help.

"It is really a time when we all need to pull together and do what we can to provide more resources for the nurses," the lead author of the study Dr. Lotte Dyrbye said.

Mayo Clinic conducted the study in 2017 and 2018 – before the pandemic exacerbated challenges already facing nurses. There are three main findings:

1. Nurses think about suicide more than other united states workers.

2. Those with suicidal thoughts are less likely to seek professional care.

3. Burnout is a part of the problem.

"If [nurses] had burnout, they were at much higher risk for having thoughts of suicide," Dyrbye said.

The Minnesota Organization of Registered Nurses called this phenomenon chilling and think that the pandemic could have made this issue worse. COVID-19 brought higher demand and more staffing shortages – both leading to burnout. Experts say there are barriers to nurses getting help.

"Some of it is just difficulty with access and difficulty with flexibility around the shifts that you’re assigned to work as a nurse."

Nurses also say there’s a stigma around receiving care. Some are afraid it will make them look less competent at their job.

"Medical license questions can get in the way of physicians seeking help for very treatable mental health problems," Dyrbye said.

Many believe these issues require changes to the overall system such as getting rid of the stigma and offering more resources.

As this study shows, however, these problems aren’t new.

"My hope is that the pandemic has made visible the problems we had before," said Katheren Koehn, a representative at the Minnesota Organization of Registered Nurses.

The organization also said the burden of documentation leads to burnout – meaning nurses want to focus on caring for patients but sometimes feel they’re spending too much time on paperwork. This oftentimes leaves them feeling unfulfilled.