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Self-Care in Scrubs: Why Nursing Students Should Prioritize Mental Health!

One of the majors here at USC Upstate is the nursing program and other healthcare-related fields that are a vital part of every community, no matter if that community is in the United States or a thousand miles away in a different country.  The importance of these fields makes them vital to communities everywhere. In recent years, there has been a shortage in the workforce, which could affect the ones just out of school, as well as those who have spent years in the field. With the stigmata of mental health lifting, there are more studies being done on mental health and occupational causes. Nursing, when compared to other careers, has a need to be aware of mental health issues and ways to alleviate the stress that comes along with the day-to-day challenges of being a nurse.

According to a study done by Trusted Health Frontline Nurse Mental Health and Well-being Survey | Trusted Health in April of 2023, which polled 1900 nurses online more than half of them have experienced job-related mental health issues. The largest percentage with 29% have been in the nursing field for 5-8 years and the next at 26% in the field for 11-20 years. This goes along information and studies collected by the CDC Health Workers Face a Mental Health Crisis | VitalSigns | CDC and the National Library of Medicine Nursing: Mental Health and Community Concepts - NCBI Bookshelf ( The CDC’s website gathering and comparing numerous studies and combining the data in a page dedicated to healthcare mental health.

There seems to be the same causes in most of the studies that lead to these mental health problems. Those suffering from burnout and depression average around 60 or 61% percent of the reported mental health issues. Around 45% are suffering from PTSD acquired on the job. Nurses are also at an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and/or acts. This is higher than others in the healthcare profession and only slightly lower than military and first responders experience. The factors that lead to this mostly are patient assignments, workplace atmosphere, and other negative impacts.

Considering that nurses, especially trauma, ICU, and hospice, are with most patients at the end and witness the worst imaginable parts of death, the mental health issues are to be expected as possible job hazards. However, there are things that one can do to help alleviate the symptoms arising from the stresses of the workplace. First, peer support groups have a major positive effect on mental health. At workplaces that offer these peer support groups to their employees it has been found that more than half of those will have less mental health issues and a more positive outlook on their careers than those that do not have these options for employees. Around 64% of the nurses in most of the studies found their mental health improving with outdoor or physical activities and 45% of those say that continuing the activities helped alleviate the day-to-day stress, as well as the high stress days. 33% is the average that seek professional help for their mental health, but almost half never seek help and 25% have reported to increasing alcohol consumption and turning to illicit or illegal drugs as a coping mechanism.

I decided to speak with Mary Bucher, the Director of Health Services here at Upstate, about the importance of mental health and the services that are provided to help nursing students, as well as all the other students, with maintaining a positive and healthy outlook on mental health issues. She gave me some information about services and opportunities that many may not be aware of on campus. She said that in “A profession where you care for others, self-care is so important.” She goes on to say that in professional settings, such as nursing and health-related fields, first responders, teachers, social work, and the military “are unique. We have a lot of people that put themselves out there to help others.”

When it comes to those selfless individuals that are in those fields of caring, protecting, and teaching those that are not capable of those needs themselves, not only put themselves in situations almost every day that are more stressful than most people can fathom. Day after day, these incredible people put themselves in an environment where they deal with people that may be sick, or severely injured, and in the blink of an eye could pass away. It is not just people who have lived long and healthy lives. It could be a child, or someone just like us, just starting to live life. They see people at their most vulnerable, and trauma and death are never a pretty thing. It can be extremely stressful knowing “there's a human life at the other end of every decision and action you take.”

Which is why future nurses, and those who have spent years in the medical industry, should be aware of the issues and how to reach out if they begin to feel their mental health is starting to decline or maybe close to not being at its healthiest. The director, who herself is an LPN, emphasizes the importance of maintaining not only mental health needs but also physical needs as well. The healthcare office on University Drive is open to all students Monday through Friday. They are open until five most days.  But what is even better than that is that the mental health services, which are located at 490 Hodge Dr. in the Rampey Educational Center, has unlimited and completely free counseling services by professionals.

Mental health provides not only consultations and counseling services, but also Psychiatry appointments on campus with a psychiatrist that comes in for the students if you need those services as well. They have telehealth for those that do not want to go to the offices, and everything is 100% confidential. For those that would prefer group therapy is offered as well. And again, it is no cost for these counseling services. It is a great resource for those that need it or just those that want to maintain a healthy mental health.  

So, if you are on the path to becoming one of the unsung heroes of health care or not, if you know someone, or have family that is in healthcare or another stressful environment, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone. To find a way that works for you and to set up a plan to promote better mental health as a need or as a preventive measure.



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