Mental preparedness of nurses and nursing students in India for COVID-19

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Researchers from Bengaluru, India, tried to assess the psychological preparedness of Indian nurses and nursing students in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic that has now affected over 33.27 million people worldwide seems to rage on unabated and is something that these healthcare workers have never faced before in their careers.

The study titled, “Psychological preparedness for pandemic (COVID-19) management: Perceptions of nurses and nursing students in India,” is released at the pre-publication site medRxiv*.

Study: Psychological preparedness for pandemic (COVID-19) management: Perceptions of nurses and nursing students in India. Image Credit: PRIYA DARSHAN

What was the study about?

Nurses and student trainee nurses form an essential part of the workforce dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there have been previous epidemics and disease outbreaks, the socio-economic disruption and psychological impact caused by COVID-19 is unprecedented. Dealing with a virus that is highly infective and rapidly spreads from person to person is a massive challenge. This study aimed to assess the perception of nurses and nursing students regarding their psychological preparedness to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and its management.

Psychological distress and preparedness

The psychological distress among nursing and other healthcare professionals arises from many factors. Some of these include worries about the right patient care, long hours, personal protective equipment, fear of transmitting the infection to family members, and others. The stigma around the infection also raises psychological distress.  As the pandemic progresses, most healthcare workers are becoming involved in COVID care, the authors of the study wrote.

Some of the major influencers on psychological preparedness, according to authors, include:

  • risk perception
  • outcome expectancy
  • self-efficacy
  • collective efficacy
  • previous experience
  • perceived responsibility towards self and others
  • coping style
  • resource issues

The researchers defined psychological preparedness as “intra-individual and a psychological state of awareness, anticipation, and readiness capacity to anticipate and manage one’s psychological response in an emergency situation.” They say that it is a vital quality for first responders and healthcare providers, especially during natural/biological disasters.

What was done?

For this study, the team utilized a cross-sectional online survey and included all the nursing officers in their institute, including nurse administrators and nursing teachers. They also included nursing students in the study. The participants were given a link to participate via email.

For assessment of their psychological preparedness, they used the following scales:

  • Psychological Preparedness for Disaster Threat Scale (PPDTS)-Modified
  • General Self Efficacy (GSE) Scale
  • Optimism Scale and
  • Brief Resilient Coping Scale (BRS)

At the end of the study, a total of 685 responses were received, and of these, 676 forms were found to be complete and could be analyzed.

What was found?

The average age of the participants in the study was around 32 years. One in five of the participants had undergone some form of psychological training previously, the team noted. Of the participants, 4 percent had been actively involved in caring for COVID-19 patients.

The results showed:

  • PPDTS score average – 73.44 (Standard Deviation 10.82)
  • GSE score average – 33.19 (Standard Deviation 5.23)
  • BRCS score average – 16.79 (Standard Deviation 2.73)
  • Optimism score average – 9.61 (Standard Deviation 2.26)

These could be interpreted as “moderate level of psychological preparedness, self-efficacy, and resilience but a higher level of optimism,” wrote the researchers. Psychological preparedness, self-efficacy, optimism and resilience were closely associated with each other, and self-efficacy, optimism, and resilience could all be used as predictors of psychological preparedness.

Some of the answers to open-ended questions regarding the experience included the following:

  • Many said that this helped them gain experience and made them more confident in disaster management
  • Some said that it helped them learn how to manage a COVID-19 patient effectively
  • Some of the participants cited the satisfaction they gained on providing care to COVID-19 patient and the gratifying experiences
  • Lessons in communication and mental health awareness were also learned by some of the participants
  • Personal protection and wearing adequate personal protective equipment, hand hygiene maintenance, and following protective protocols, was something many of the participants learned during their experience.

Conclusions and implications

This study shows that self-efficacy, optimism, and resilience were useful markers for psychological preparedness in pandemic management. These were found to be at a moderate level among the study participants.

Further training of the nursing staff could improve self-efficacy. Programs to increase resilience and coping can also help in increasing psychological preparedness as the pandemic progresses, and more is demanded of the nursing and other healthcare professionals.

*Important Notice

medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

Journal reference:

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