Kate Judge

Iowa faced a shortage of nurses prior to COVID-19 and now there’s fear of a deepening demand for those health care professionals as the pandemic may bring more rapid burnout.

Kate Judge, executive director of the American Nurses Foundation, says a new national well-being initiative targets only nurses, of which there are about 60,000 in Iowa. “Even before this pandemic, nurses were under extraordinary stress,” Judge says, “and now we have some tools that are specifically designed for nurses, by nurses, that can help them and they’re all free.”

The initiative allows nurses to pick what types of services they may need when they need it, using the website NursingWorld.org. “We have something that allows people to do some writing and journaling, if that’s for them,” Judge says. “We have peer-to-peer where people can call in and talk about all the issues that affect them. What we’re hearing from nurses is, it’s not just talking about what’s happening in their clinical environment. They’re talking about their work, their career, their family, life balance.”

There’s one-on-one talk therapy available and even an app that enables nurses to track their moods. Judge says there are more than 48,000 RNs and another 12,000 LPNs with active licenses in Iowa. She says it’s still unclear how coronavirus will impact their numbers.

“We’re concerned that the pandemic will decrease the number of nurses wanting to stay in nursing,” Judge says. “They’ve been in a position where their safety has been a concern, their families’ safety has been a concern. We’re also seeing some positive things where people are responding and saying, ‘I want to be on the front lines.'”

Prior to the pandemic, a study found burnout among nurses was at an all-time high, with an estimated 63% of nurses exhibiting symptoms including job-induced stress, anxiety and depression. The American Nurses Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the American Nurses Association, with the mission to “transform the nation’s health through the power of nursing.”