Can nursing school lead to depression? (+5 coping tips)

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This article will discuss if going to nursing school can cause the students to develop depression. The article will show what are the main causes of getting depressed when in nursing school, and what are ways that people can cope with it.

Can nursing school lead to depression? 

Yes, nursing school can lead to depression. In the same way as studying for many health areas careers, studying to be a nurse can be stressful. The first thing they will have to deal with is the competition to get in, and from then on, they may face constant dares.

The long hours of studying, preparing for classes and tests, all the learning they need to absorb, topped with the good grades they should keep if they want to apply for a scholarship. There is so much for them to handle that at some point it can make them depressed.

And considering that their studies can last between 2 and 4 years, it is to imagine how this prolonged exposure to stress can affect them. Many studies, such as one done to evaluate the prevalence of depression in student nurses in Cameroon showed a high prevalence of depression.  

Another study has shown how depression can reach around 25% of the nursing school population. And before it is possible to get a handle on the depression that student nurses are going through, let’s understand what seems to be the most common sources of it.

What causes student nurses to be depressed?

It seems some factors cause people going through nursing school to be depressed. 

Stressful school routine 

The pace of nursing school is extremely fast. The speed at which the knowledge is passed, and how much is expected of the student in each class can be overwhelming. And it is not only reading a lot, but they also have to deal with the lab, and many simulations to learn how to do things when they go through it in reality.

Difficulty balancing study with other parts of their lives 

From nursing school, and even after it, nurses have a crazy schedule. When working in a hospital, they will most likely work in shifts, and having to go through them implies they will have to dedicate themselves to it completely. 

When this starts to become too much, and their mental health is affected, some people may start to act in a self-destructive manner. They take on abusing alcohol and drugs and stop living a balanced lifestyle, which can, in consequence, make their symptoms of depression even worse.

Distancing themselves from their loved ones 

The long hours of study can make it hard for you to keep your relationships. This can happen because you will need to dedicate too much of your time to studying, but also because people close to you may have trouble understanding why you are distant.

Because of school and work, you may miss important events, such as holidays, and the birthday of loved ones, and not everyone will positively handle that. Aside from that, you may feel extremely guilty, which can make depression worse.

Hard time dealing with work 

Your work environment is the place where you will spend most of your days. And like any other workplace, it can have its problems. But aside from troubles with your boss and coworkers, when you are studying to be a nurse you will handle some difficult moments.

Being a nurse implies that you may be a part of some of the people’s most difficult days. You may face death every day, and the pain of the family members that have just lost someone. With time this can start to wear on you.

And even though some people find ways to deal with these situations, such as nurses that use humor as a coping skill, this may not work for you. Another problem with work is the long hours, and dealing with shifts when you may be understaffed, which adds to the stress.

A profession that deals with the unplanned

And finally, student nurses may become depressed because they are facing a profession that is constantly dealing with the unplanned. An example of that is the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Facing those life and death situations, not knowing what may happen in your workday, are all reasons for someone to feel constantly stressed, which can lead them to become depressed.

But if you are going through this, know that there are some ways you can cope with depression as you go through nursing school.

How can people go through nursing school to cope with depression? 

To cope with depression in nursing school, you may want to do this.

Create some sense of routine 

Although it may be hard, try to set some sense of routine for yourself. Have a study schedule, and try to include some breaks in it. Have in a schedule the times you will have to focus on studying, and what are your relaxing times, allow you to not feel so anxious.

In that schedule you may even put the family events you will have. By looking at all that, you will be able to get a sense of what your life will be like in the next month, week, or semester. Which may calm you a little.

Have a support network 

Try to have people around you to count on. It can be your family, but it may also be your colleagues. You are all going through the same thing, so it may be easier for them to understand what you are going through. 

Aside from that, you may want to look for professional help. Depression is a serious condition, and it is important to learn why you are going through this and understand your emotions better.

See if your workplace offers support 

And if you are looking for therapy, you may want to check if your university or work has a support program directed at mental health. It has become more and more common for that to happen, and having it there can make it easier to get treatment.

Take breaks 

Be it in your study routine, or at work, always remind yourself to take breaks. You need some distance to think of other things, or just to relax. And even though it may seem like a waste, the breaks will make you come back more energized and motivated for your studies.

Meditation will help you 

But when you feel you are in a spiral of stress or negative thinking, you may want to turn to meditation. By practicing it, you may find a way to center yourself, and focus on what you are thinking and feeling at the moment. This is an extremely useful resource to reduce your stress levels.

Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle

Eating and sleeping well, and exercising will do wonders to help you cope with depression and the insane days of studying to be a nurse. By doing those you may improve your energy levels, feel less fatigued, and even manage your stress levels.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Can nursing school lead to depression? 

Is it common to have anxiety in nursing school? 

Yes, it is extremely common to experience anxiety in nursing school. In the same way as depression, anxiety can happen when the person is constantly worried about something and has a hard time letting go of that. 

And in the same way as with depression, to cope with anxiety the student nurse may need to look for professional help to understand what, in their lives, has been triggering the anxiety, and how to deal with it. Along with that, having a healthy lifestyle can also help manage anxiety.

What is the hardest part of being a nurse?

Business insiders made research trying to establish what is the hardest part of being a nurse. Most of the participants said that the hardest part of it is dealing with the feeling of failure as they see a patient die even after they have tried everything to save them.

The second hardest thing is dealing with what other people think or say about their careers. They feel like some people look down on them when comparing what they do to the work of a doctor. And the third hardest difficulty is dealing with the long hours that can take them away from the people they love.

What are the main reasons why nurses quit their jobs?

Although some people may think nurses would quit their job because of the type of work they do, in reality, they usually quit because of bad working conditions. The first reason why they usually quit their jobs is that they have found one in which they will be paid better, and have better benefits.

Besides that, nurses usually quit their jobs because they are going through burnout, or feel like their place of work is not putting enough staff in each shift, causing them to overwork. 

This leads to the next reason why they quit their jobs, which is a stressful work environment, followed by feeling like their management doesn’t do a good job.

What are the most common symptoms of depression?

Depression is a mental illness that manifests itself differently in each person. But it usually causes the person to experience intense sadness. Not only that, it makes the person feel empty, and as if they have lost their purpose. They may lose interest in doing things, even the ones they used to love.

It also causes the person to feel less energetic and motivated. They can also feel fatigued, more irritable, guilty, and ashamed. Aside from that, depression changes the person’s eating and sleeping patterns, can make them cry more, and have a harder time focusing. 

Depression damages the person’s self-esteem, and self-worth goes down. In some cases, people may act in self-harm, and others may have thoughts of death and even suicidal thoughts.

What are the causes of depression?

Depression can be caused by some factors. It can happen due to genetics, meaning that when a person has a family history of depression, they have a higher chance of going through it. Aside from that, it can happen when a person is experiencing an imbalance in their brain’s chemistry.

And it may also be related to a traumatic episode, such as the loss of a loved one, or even a difficult event a student nurse may go through.

Conclusion 

This article centered on explaining why people going through nursing school can develop depression. The article showed the risk factors in this population, and what are ways they can cope with them.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write them in the section below.

References

Njim, T., Mbanga, C., Mouemba, D. et al. Determinants of depression among nursing students in Cameroon: a cross-sectional analysis. BMC Nurs 19, 26 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12912-020-00424-y

Sahebi A, Nejati-Zarnaqi B, Moayedi S, Yousefi K, Torres M, Golitaleb M. The prevalence of anxiety and depression among healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic: An umbrella review of meta-analyses.Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2021 Apr 20; 107: 110247.

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