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Study: Nurses At Greater Risk Of Suicide Than Others

 February 20, 2020 at 10:21 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 According to the world health organization, one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and a new UC San Diego study found nurses. The very people, many depend on for help are at higher risk of suicide than the general population. Joining me to talk about what's being done to address this is Judy Davidson nurse and research scientist with UC San Diego along with Rachel a Cardi, a UC San Diego therapist for a suicide prevention program at UCS. UCFD. Welcome to you both. Thank you very much. So Judy, I'll start with you. These recent findings about nurse suicide rates came after you looked at data from the CDC. What did you discover? Well, we looked at the data from 2005 to 2016 and found that nurses were at higher risk for suicide than the general population in all of those years. Female nurses for the entire dataset and male nurses from 2013 and beyond. Speaker 1: 00:59 How much a of a higher risk are we talking here? Well enough to be worried we have a problem. Whereas throughout the world, suicide rates have been rising steadily in nurses. It's been high all along. So. So does that mean there's been a rise in overall suicide deaths among nurses? No, there hasn't been arise surprisingly. We've been at risk all those years. So as the world has seen an increase in suicide nurses, suicide risk was high throughout time. And Judy, why is that? What's behind the higher suicide rates among nurses? Well, this data did give us an important finding. There was a significantly higher risk of job problems amongst nurses, much higher than the general population. So something about the work of nursing is driving this risk. And Rachel, you work as a therapist, talk about what nurses are dealing with that makes them vulnerable to suicide. Speaker 2: 01:56 Generally, I think nurses are at greater risk for experiencing secondary trauma. So anything from a, a tragic car accident coming in, in the emergency room or a, a death of a patient. I think to nurses, they bond with their patients on a level that, uh, I think is different from most. And so I think of the oncology nurse who is taking care of this patient for six months and they've obviously created relationship with them that's filled with compassion and care, uh, and know that this patient is eventually going to pass and that inevitably is going to lead to grief within that nurse. So I think they, they experience different, different things that, um, the general population, uh, is maybe not as used to on a daily basis. Speaker 1: 02:48 Well, is it difficult for nurses to reach out for help? I think [inaudible] can Speaker 2: 02:53 be in some regard. I think stigma still exists and I think there can be fear and shame involved in seeking help. But what we've found, at least at UC San Diego is that our nurse population is breaking through that stigma. We've seen that over the years. There's an increase in their, um, their want to use the here program and their willingness to speak about the issues that they're dealing with. Well, what are some of the obstacles and barriers that exist for getting help? I think shame. I think fear, especially within the world of medicine, I think, uh, there is the stigma that says if you are seeking help, you are weak. You can't do your job, you're at risk of losing your job. Uh, and that that's somebody's livelihood. So I think that would keep anybody back from seeking that help. Judy, in response to this problem, you've tested a suicide prevention program called the healer education assessment and referral Speaker 1: 03:56 for all program or here for short. How does it work? Well, it gets past some of these barriers that Rachel has just mentioned. So it's entirely anonymous. No one at work will ever know that you went to see that therapist or that you've gotten counseling. You can even remain anonymous where you just speak through an encrypted email, um, through the computer and get therapy through the computer and get referral for further treatment through the computer without ever disclosing your identity. So we partner with the American foundation of suicide prevention and um, the survey is deployed once a year. The chief nurse officer asked the nurses to do it as a matter of self care. Then if they screed moderate to high risk on that screening, it goes back from the American foundation of suicide prevention encrypted to the therapist Rachel and her partner Courtney. And then they engage with that nurse through the encryption to invite them into a discussion. Speaker 1: 04:55 Once they get them into dialogue, they offer them in person face to face or phone counseling or referrals for treatment and it's up to the nurse whether or not they break the anonymous entity of the program, but we think because it's proactive, number one, proactive, not reactive, that we push out and welcome these nurses to do the screening and the anonymous nature of it. Those two, two key elements are what make this program effective. Now that you have these findings, what do you hope will happen next? We hope that programs like the here program will be re replicated by others. It's ready for replication. You echo the same. Speaker 2: 05:32 I do. And I can speak to the fact that uh, many organizations already have, uh, replicated the here program. It may not be called here, but, uh, many universities across the nation are already creating these suicide prevention programs through the support of the American foundation for suicide prevention. I've been speaking with Judy Davidson, nurse and research scientist with UC San Diego, along with Cardi, a UC San Diego therapist for the here program. Thank you both for joining us. Thanks so much. Thank you. If you are someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the San Diego crisis line at (888) 724-7240.

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The UC San Diego study found female nurses are 1.4 times more likely to take their own lives than the general population. Researchers point to the need for more suicide prevention programs.
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