University of South Florida


Nurses, PTSD and the COVID-19 pandemic

As part of his doctoral training, Santiago Hernandez Bojorge, a PhD student at the USF College of Public Health (COPH), embarked on a research project examining the prevalence and risk factors for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study, The prevalence and risk factors of PTSD symptoms among nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic—A systematic review and meta-analysis, was published in December in the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing. 

The research was performed with fellow USF faculty Drs. Jason Beckstead, Derek Wildman and Marc Lajeunesse and COPH doctoral students Adriana Campos and Jeegan Parikh.

nurse wearing protective gear caring for patient in hospital bed

                                                                                                  Photo source: Canva

Hernandez Bojorge and his colleagues looked at more than 40,000 nurses involved in 55 studies across 26 countries and found that roughly 29% experienced PTSD during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic (2020-2023). Risk factors included being female; having a mental health disorder; being in direct contact with or having intensive exposure to COVID-19 patients; not having adequate protective measures; enduring an intensive workload or long work shift; and working with critically ill COVID patients in settings like ICU wards.

While Hernandez Bojorge said the 29% prevalence rate was high, it wasn’t surprising. 

“Nurses were the most numerous and exposed frontline group of health care workers who worked during the pandemic,” explained Hernandez Bojorge, who is concentrating in global communicable diseases.

Hernandez Bojorge says key to lowering the risk of PTSD among nurses and other health care workers during public health emergencies is supplying them with resources.

“Training through email, pamphlets and websites is effective in reducing PTSD in nurses experiencing high stress levels,” Hernandez Bojorge said. “Additionally, hospital management and administrations should anticipate the impact of public health emergencies on the mental health of their health care workers and provide sufficient training in evidence-based techniques for coping with stressful events. These interventions—such as providing flexible work schedules and promoting adequate sleep hygiene—may reduce the prevalence rates of PTSD among nurses and encourage them to support other colleagues facing adverse situations.”

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