The Impact of Nurses' Health on Productivity and Quality of Care

Hospital management and nurses agree that hospitals must ease the workload of overstressed RNs.

When depressed or in physical pain, nurses are more likely to make mistakes—musculoskeletal pain affects more than 60 percent of the RN workforce and a study found clinical depression in 35 percent of a sample of medical-surgical nurses.

This article presents themes that emerged during focus groups with three groups of nurses: (1) those who worked while suffering health problems; (2) healthy RNs whose colleagues worked while in poor health; and (3) managers who supervised nurses in poor health. Recruitment occurred at four North Carolina hospitals; 28 RNs of varying ages participated.

Key Findings:

  • Loyalty to coworkers and a sense of duty to patients led nurses to work through chronic insomnia, depression and anxiety.
  • Nurses and hospital management were in the dark about how to deal with colleagues who have health problems.
  • Nurses were more comfortable openly discussing physical pain and illness than mental health issues.

Nurses commonly work while suffering physical pain and mental anguish. This article brings forth feedback from RNs and hospital management regarding how overstressed nurses affect the hospital work environment.