Moreover, depressed people often exhibit low mood, have trouble concentrating, are more accident prone, and have worse time management skills; symptoms that would no doubt harm patient care.
The trouble is nurses often don't recognize depression in themselves.
"People assume because we're nurses that we take care of ourselves," Letvak says. "We don't want to ever consider ourselves as not the cheerful happy nurse going into work every day."
For the Robert Wood Johnson study, researchers analyzed surveys from 1,171 hospital nurses in North Carolina to determine the prevalence of depression, as well as the individual and workplace characteristics associated with the illness.
They used the PHQ-9, a nine-item self-reporting tool developed for use in primary care. In addition to identifying the prevalence of depression, the researchers also found that factors such as body mass index, job satisfaction, and having other of health problems had a significant relationship to a higher total depression score.
Although Letvak knows that nursing is a tough job (she says her role as a nurse manager was "the most difficult job I ever had"), she was still "really surprised" by the study results.