The coronavirus epidemic could negatively impact staff morale – revealed as already low by a major report on primary care – for the long term, nurses have told Nursing in Practice.
The primary care report, released last month by Nursing in Practice’s publishers Cogora, found that 42% of nurses – out of the 719 advanced nurse practitioners, practice nurses, community nurses and district nurses polled – said their work morale was ‘low’ or ‘very low’.
The survey was carried out during November and December last year, before the coronavirus pandemic. But nurses have since warned that the Covid-19 pandemic has further depressed morale and this could be for the long term.
A practice nurse based in London, who wished to remain anonymous, told Nursing in Practice coronavirus ‘will have a negative impact on morale in the long run’ because of the ‘tsunami ahead’.
They explained: ‘We are all worried about the huge numbers of patients due for face-to-face reviews once restrictions lift.
‘For example, cervical smears and respiratory testing. Meeting this need with reduced PPE (personal protective equipment), exhausted staff and continuing restrictions to the way we work is an intimidating thought.’ Although, she added, morale ‘is currently the same’.
A community nurse based in the West Midlands, who also wished to be anonymous, said morale in their workplace is currently ‘much lower’ because of fears around ‘higher death rates, PPE issues and being responsible for taking the virus home and infecting family or friends’.
They continued: ‘I also feel morale is likely to be affected long term as a result of the virus due to staff feeling isolated, fearful and unsupported during probably one of the worst pandemics of our time.’
However, Karen Foster, a practice nurse based in Portsmouth, countered: ‘I think morale was already high in my particular practice and it has remained so – we want to support each other and our patients.’
‘Practice nurses just want to continue to do their job as safely as possible and give patients the best care they can,’ she added.
A practice nurse based in London, who wished to remain anonymous, said that Covid-19 had boosted morale in their workplace because of the ‘sense of camaraderie’ it had created.
They explained: ‘Patients have shown more appreciation of staff across the practice. We are truly operating as a team.’
The most cited driver of low morale given in the survey was unrealistic patient demand, though a lack of appreciation from management and low pay were also significant reasons.
The vast majority (84%) of practice nurses also said that burnout and stress had affected patient care. The average result for this question across all nurses was one in six (62%).
The survey also revealed that an overwhelming majority of primary care nurses support compulsory vaccination and that many practices did not triage before Covid-19.
A total of 3,610 healthcare professionals responded to the State of Primary Care survey, which is Cogora’s seventh annual report examining the state of primary care.