Caring can take a toll – Nurses’ psychological wellbeing

Miss Catherine Smith


Caring with compassion is an essential element of quality nursing care.  Over recent decades it has become evident that caring can however take a toll on nurses’ psychological health. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the psychological risk of caring and impact on nurses’ wellbeing.

Health care organisations have a duty of care regarding the psychological wellbeing of staff as part of Work Health and Safety requirements ₁.  Protocols exists which outline how organisations support staff wellbeing for example how staff can access employee assistance programs (EAP).  Nurses can also access psychological support 24/7 via Nurse & Midwife Support ₂. It is a professional expectation that nurses `encourage and support colleagues to seek help if they are concerned that their colleague’s health may be affecting their ability to practice safely’₃.

The psychological wellbeing of staff and risk of moral injury was highlighted during the THS –North West COVID-19 emergency response.  A Psychological First Aid Plan was developed with the aim to ‘build people’s capacity to recover’ with five elements: –’promote safety; promote calm; promote connectedness; promote self efficacy and promote hope’ ₄. Information on well-being support was provided on the THS website and COVID-19 pages.  Additional EAP support included increased access to Psychologists.

As the THS – North West’s Nursing Division progresses towards the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center (ANCC) Pathway to Excellence Program® Certification, there is opportunity to explore further nurses’ psychological well-being needs as part of the Staff Well-being Standard₅ to nurture the power within for compassionate nursing care.

  1. THS – North West (2015) Staff Work Health & Safety Handbook, Tasmanian Health Service (THS) –

North West Region, Aus., p.9.

  1. Nurse & Midwife Support, Accessing support, Support for Nurses & Midwives, downloaded 6/8/20,

  1. NMBA (2018) Code of conduct for nurses, Nursing & Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA),

Australia, p. 14.

  1. APS (2013) Psychological First Aid – Supporting people affected by disaster in Australia, Australian

Red Cross, 2nd  edn., Aus. p.5,9,11.

  1. Morley, C. (2020) Pathway to Excellence® Information Guide, Version 7.0, May 2020, THS –



Cathy works as a Project Nurse supporting the Executive Director of Nursing and Nursing Division to progress quality improvement initiatives across the THS– North West. Recently Cathy has also been working with the THS North West COVID 19 Vaccination Clinic team.  Her professional topics of interest include: person-centred care; preferred place at end of life, and missed care.