COVID-19's effect on midwives' mental health
A study, conducted by a team of academics and NHS staff, titled the ‘Impact of COVID-19 on the nursing and midwifery workforce’, or ICON, has released its second set of survey results out of three, revealing the taxing effects of COVID-19 on midwives' and nurses' mental and physical well-being. Around 4 063 midwives and nurses took part in the second-stage survey over the period 28 April 2020–12 May 2020 (Fe News, 2020).
Of the total surveyed, 88% were reported to have concerns about infecting family members with COVID-19 as a result of working on the frontline; as low as 12% stated they are using well-being apps to cope with the crisis; 17% reported making use of timeout rooms; and only 1% use the online mental health forum, SilverCloud, that is made available to them (Fe News, 2020).
A significant proportion of these results suggest that most of the stress and anxiety caused in midwives and nurses stems from the fear of possibly spreading infection to members of their household. This then poses the problem of midwives and nurses potentially feeling less confident in their abilities to adequately perform and provide care due to this fear. These concerns around infection are warranted however, as the prevailing lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to frontline staff is still a looming reality. Although, when comparing results detailing access to PPE with the first survey, 40% of participants had stated that there was more PPE being made available to them; however, it was not always fit for purpose or correct (Fe News, 2020).
As further evidenced by the second-stage survey, a low amount of participants are making use of well-being apps offered by the NHS and timeout rooms. Reasons could be that participants feel them to be ineffective or lack the time to engage with such resources due to hectic schedules. Gill Walton, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), echoes the sentiment that the high-pressured environment spurred on by the pandemic has left midwives with little room to stop and consider their own mental well-being. ‘I know employers are working very hard to support their staff but they must ensure their staff get the psychological help and support they need,’ she says, after the RCM (2020) released results from a survey they also conducted on midwives' mental health during COVID-19. ‘The mental health of midwives is just as important as their physical health, and both must be cared for if they are to do their jobs and provide safe, high-quality care.’
As hectic as this time may seem to midwives still working hard to provide quality antenatal care during the pandemic, it is critical that they also seriously take the time to ensure their own mental well-being does not fall by the wayside.