But she and her fellow researchers also say that depression screening and early treatment can help—in fact, Letvak told me that even filling out the screening questionnaire caused some nurses to recognize depression symptoms in themselves. Moreover, advanced practice nurses and other nurse leaders can help raise awareness and encourage nurses to get help.
Although Letvak doesn't recommend that nurse leaders just walk up to a nurse and say "you seem depressed," there are steps they can take to help. First, be on the lookout for certain behaviors, like mistakes with patient care or the presence of other health problems that cause them to struggle just to get through the day. Managers don't like to do it, but consider sending the nurse to talk with HR—that's what HR is there for, Letvak says.
The problem should also be addressed on a unit level. Letvak recommends talking about depression during staff meetings, handing out a depression scale, and recommending resources for confidential, free diagnostic treatment. She points to Web-based tools such as MoodGYM, which provides evidence-based cognitive screening and therapy for depression.