SILVER SPRING, MD—The American Nurses Association (ANA) applauds U.S. Senators Tim Kaine, Todd Young, U.S. Representatives Jen Kiggans, Susan Wild, Buddy Carter, and Debbie Dingell for introducing legislation to reauthorize the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act. President Joe Biden signed this bipartisan legislation into law in March of 2022 to train current and future health professionals on how to prevent suicide, burnout, and substance use disorders. To date, it has provided $100 million in mental health care funding for health care professionals across the country.
“Being a nurse demands selflessness, in some cases to the extreme. Rarely do they put themselves first, and devastatingly, that has led to the loss of so many nurses by suicide. In the frenzy of a hospital or operating room, we can forget that the nurse draped in PPE is an individual who very likely won’t have time to process whatever emotion they may be dealing with – often because of back-to-back shifts with few to no breaks. That, coupled with the stigma that exists around being a health care professional and asking for help, has made nurses who are struggling feel so alone,” said ANA President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “All leaders have a moral obligation to help and to protect our nurses. They deserve unyielding advocates. They deserve to know that they are not alone.”
The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act was named for and honors the legacy of Dr. Lorna Breen, who died by suicide after being consumed by feelings of helplessness and despair while treating COVID-19 patients in 2020. A 2022 survey by American Nurses Foundation (ANF) found that 56% of nurses report feeling symptoms of burnout. Despite high levels of burnout, about two-thirds of nurses surveyed were not receiving any type of mental health care support. Due to several factors, including but not limited to long, consecutive shifts, constant workplace stress, and exposure to repeated trauma, nurses are at a higher risk of suicide than the general population, calling attention to the urgency of increasing their access to mental health care.
ANA urges all health care leaders, Congress, and the Biden Administration to continue examining the unique challenges that impact the nursing profession, including addressing the stigma around mental health that acts as a barrier to asking for help. ANA is committed to advocating for the needs of nurses and supporting their mental health and well-being. ANA’s Nurse Suicide Prevention website and ANF’s Well-being Initiative offer resources and toolkits designed to help nurses take the necessary steps to manage stress, address burnout, and support their overall health and wellness.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the premier organization representing the interests of the nation's more than 5 million registered nurses. ANA advances the profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting a safe and ethical work environment, bolstering the health and wellness of nurses, and advocating on health care issues that affect nurses and the public. ANA is at the forefront of improving the quality of health care for all. For more information, visit www.nursingworld.org.