NAJ boss: Nurses burned out from trauma overload
An urgent appeal has come from president of the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ), Carmen Johnson, for the Ministry of Health to address the heavy psychological toll that trauma cases are having on nurses.
Johnson also lamented the high attrition of nurses, which has caused a strain on public healthcare and threatened to compromise patient care. She revealed that in 2018 alone, more than 534 nurses were lost to other countries, the highest, she said, since 2006. The NAJ president said that the ratio of nurses to patients in Jamaican public hospitals was 1:18, which she described as unrealistic. The American Nurses Association prescribes a ratio of one nurse to five patients in medical-surgical wards and 1:2 in intensive care units.
“One thing people think we are immune to is trauma from the level of violence in our society. When individuals come in because of gunshot wounds, chop wounds or motor vehicle accidents, many nurses don’t cope well,” Johnson told a gathering at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge, where national Nurses Week was launched.
“Nurses say that when persons come in with certain injuries, they don’t even know what to do due to shock. Even for days, some of them are not able to function. Some say they talk in their sleep or scream. Once they go to work and there is a mass crash that happens, they become very uneasy.”
It is estimated that crime costs five per cent of gross domestic product in Jamaica.
Johnson added: “The attrition rate of our highly skilled and experienced nurses has placed significant strain on healthcare delivery. Some managers have had to fill in alongside inexperienced and tired nurses. The complaints have been coming in about burnout because of overtime. The ministry needs to see what it can do to encourage nurses, who are movers and shakers in healthcare, to remain longer in the system”.
In agreement that provisions need to be made to ease worker burnout, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said he was committed to tackling the crisis head-on.
“The issue of nurses being traumatised is an important point, and we need to do something about that. We have made arrangements for the training of mental-health aides to support nurses,” said Tufton, who delivered a Sectoral Debate presentation on health in Parliament last Tuesday.
“The truth is that you cannot stop attrition. What we have to do is train more nurses, which we are doing, and improving the working conditions so more nurses will be motivated to stay. We are working on the advancement of nursing practitioners to give nurses prescriptive rights so they can do more in primary healthcare.”