Emily ReadA research team at the University of New Brunswick is seeking to understand more about mental health among nursing home workers through a new research study.

UNB Fredericton nursing professors Dr. Emily Read, Dr. Sue O’Donnell, Dr. Patrick Bruning and clinical research co-ordinator Jennifer Donovan are looking for participants to help them learn more about how working in a nursing home may affect a person’s mental health.

“Working in a nursing home can be very stressful and we know that healthcare workers are at higher risk of mental and physical health problems than workers in other occupational groups,” says Dr. Read. “At the same time, the research shows that across industries, hardly anyone uses their workplace Employee and Family Assistance Program.”

Depression is one of the leading causes of disability and lost workplace productivity in Canada. Healthcare workers are at particularly high risk of depression, poor overall mental health and job burnout due to their emotionally and physically demanding jobs.

The risks are even higher for those working in nursing homes due to the increasingly heavy workloads and time pressures. One study found that 50 per cent of nursing assistants employed within a nursing home were at high risk of depression.

“This is especially concerning for our province because New Brunswick currently has the oldest population in Canada and nursing home workers play an essential role in caring for older adults who can no longer live independently in their own home,” says Dr. Read. “Without a healthy nursing home workforce, it is impossible to provide residents with the quality care that they need and deserve.”

All nursing home employees in New Brunswick have access to an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP), which offers a number of services to enhance employee health and wellbeing. The results of a recent research survey led by Dr. Read showed that despite 67 per cent of those surveyed reporting severe signs and symptoms of depression, most nursing home employees are not using the EFAP services available to them.

To better understand why nursing home employees are not using the resources available to them through their EFAP, the research team is seeking New Brunswick nursing home employees and managers to take part in one-on-one interviews to share their views and experiences with the program.

“What we are aiming to do is figure out from nursing home employees and managers directly what’s preventing them from using the resources available to them,” says Dr. Read.

“We also want know, if they are using the EFAPs, what helped them or compelled them to use it,” says Dr. Read. “At the end of the day, we’ll know the reasons why people are or are not using it and how could we improve the usage of this resource.”

Anyone interested in participating can contact Dr. Emily Read or Dr. Sue O’Donnell.

Media contact: Kathleen McLaughlin

Photo: Emily Read