Nurses deal with a spectrum of emotions on any given day. As caregivers, you see your share of gut-wrenching moments. Stressful occurrences are constant. With time, you learn coping skills to protect your heart, your sanity, your life. But what if the “blues” or a “bad day” lingers too long?  Could you be depressed and not know it?

The answer is yes.

A study last year found 18 percent of hospital nurses suffer depressive symptoms, which is twice the rate of the general population. If that wasn’t eye-opening enough, the study, which was published in the journal Clinical Nurse Specialist, revealed nurses may not always recognize depression in themselves.

Nurses with depression not only suffer, but their condition may impact co-workers and the quality of care they provide to patients.

Some signs of depression may include poor job satisfaction, mistakes with patient care, lowered productivity, workplace absenteeism and trouble concentrating.

Other symptoms of depression can include:

  • Difficulty making decisions or recalling details
  • Fatigue and a general lack of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, pessimism and/or helplessness
  • Insomnia, excessive sleeping or problems staying asleep
  • Moodiness
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or activities 
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Persistent and sometimes unexplained pains, headaches, cramps, or other physical problems that remain constant even with treatment
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Restlessness or feeling slowed down 

Depression hurts emotionally and physically. It makes the simplest tasks difficult to accomplish.

With nearly 1 in 5 nurses depressed, chances are you work with someone struggling with a disease that still carries a stigma. 

Knowing the signs is a healthy first step toward seeking a solution. Consider sharing information about the signs of depression informally at work or formally during staff meetings and on a unit level. Discussions could include confidential resources to manage depression, which can be life threatening if untreated. Depression is a big risk factor for suicide. 

See also
Nurses Must Protect Themselves from Ebola

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression symptoms, please seek help.

Robin Farmer is a freelance writer with a focus on health, education and business. Contact her at

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