A newly released study shows that the pandemic is taking a toll on B.C. nurses.

The joint study between the BC Nurses’ Union and researchers from the UBC School of Nursing surveyed 3,676 nurses from around BC.

Of those, 41 per cent said they suffered from severe depression – compared to 31 percent from a similar survey conducted in late 2019.

As well, 60 percent said they suffered from emotional exhaustion – up from 56 percent earlier.

“Before the pandemic, we knew that nurses were being greatly impacted by the nursing shortage, suffering from significant burnout due to high workloads,” says BCNU President Christine Sorensen.

“This study offers a look at the personal and professional sacrifices nurses have made over the last six months, and the toll it is taking on them. Now, it’s more important than ever that mental health support is provided for nurses and all health-care workers as they brace for a COVID-19 surge this fall while attempting to meet targets in the government’s surgery restart program.”

The BCNU said the findings also “expose the heavy burden COVID-19 has placed on nurses’ personal lives” with 80 percent fearing they will contract COVID-19 at work and 86 percent reporting they are extremely concerned about bringing the virus home to their loved ones.

The study also looked at COVID-19 training, organizational handling of the pandemic, workplace violence, and nurses’ coping mechanisms.

“While these are preliminary findings and we are continuing to analyze the data, we can already see the broad trends of worsening mental health among BC’s frontline nurses,” said principal investigator Farinaz Havaei, an assistant professor at the UBC school of nursing who studies health systems and patient care.

“As a nurse and a researcher, I’m very concerned to see more nurses reporting higher levels of poor mental health, which can directly affect their ability to provide effective care, if not resolved in a timely manner.”