Nurse suicide has been a hidden phenomenon in the profession and has not been adequately measured or studied within the United States. The time for a culture change is now. Research is needed to assess the magnitude of nurse suicide and associated work stressors. We have applied for, and received the NVDRS dataset and have begun an investigation to define the incidence of nurse suicide. The study will include psychological autopsies, including circumstances leading to suicide, the emotional state of the nurse prior to the event, pre-existing psychiatric conditions and treatment, trauma, violence, and home and work stressors. Open, transparent communication is needed to address pertinent issues related to nurse suicide. Strategies to identify, prevent, and mitigate nurse burnout and depression and prevent suicide need to be tested. Once available, research results, coupled with institutional and individual grit, can help transform the culture of the nursing profession from silence and isolation to one of shared dedication to nurse health and wellness, ultimately contributing to optimal patient care. Until such data are available, silence and the preventable loss of life will prevail.
Judy E. Davidson, DNP, RN, FCCM, FAAN, is a nurse scientist for University of California, San Diego Health. Janet Mendis, MSN, RNC-NIC, CNS, is a clinical nurse specialist for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at University of California, San Diego Health. Amy R. Stuck, PhD, RN, is a health services researcher at the West Health Institute. Gianni DeMichele, MS, MA, MFT, is a program counselor at the University of California, San Diego Healer Education Assessment and Referral (HEAR) Program. Sidney Zisook, MD, is a distinguished professor at University of California (UC), San Diego, and director of the university’s HEAR Program.
Davidson, J., J. Mendis, A. R. Stuck, G. DeMichele, and S. Zisook. 2018. Nurse suicide: Breaking the silence. NAM Perspectives. Discussion Paper, National Academy of Medicine, Washington, DC. https://nam.edu/nurse-suicide-breaking-the-silence.
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January 8, 2018
The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The paper is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It is not a report of the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.