Survey Results of Year One COVID-19 Mental Health Impact on Illinois Nurses & What to Do About It  

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has had a huge impact on nurses’ mental health. Through social media, nurses have shared firsthand with the public how deeply stressful their work has become. Not that nursing has ever been a profession for the fainthearted! But now, the mental health effects of nursing—especially during a public health crisis—is getting the media attention it deserves. 

American Nurses Association COVID-19 Survey

And now we have even more data to show the impacts on nurses’ mental health. According to its website, “the American Nurses Foundation conducted a comprehensive survey to learn more about the overall mental health and well-being, financial, and professional impact of the pandemic on U.S. nurses. 22,316 nurses responded to this survey between January 19 and February 16, 2021.”  

In Illinois, 913 nurses responded to the survey.*  

As a reminder, the survey was taken before vaccines were widely available to the public. They were on the cusp of being available for all adults.  

Results From Illinois Nurses 

The survey asked nurses to report whether they had experienced certain feelings in the past 14 days. The list included both positive and negative feelings. It comes as no great surprise that the challenging feelings had a higher percentage of nurses reporting them than many of the positive feelings. 

Let’s cover the bad news first. Here are a few: 

  • 48% experienced exhaustion. 
  • 42% felt overwhelmed. 
  • 36% felt irritable. 
  • 33% felt anxious or unable to relax. 
  • 26% experienced a desire to quit. 
  • 21% felt isolated and lonely. 
  • 10% felt like a failure. 

Just reading that list makes all our hearts heavy. No one wants to feel that way at work or in life. Carrying those heavy feelings while caregiving for patients in duress takes every ounce of strength a person has. 

Now for some good news: 

  • 34% felt their work has meaning. 
  • 30% had confidence in their ability to handle things. 
  • 23% felt determined. 
  • 22% felt optimistic about the future. 
  • 21% felt resilient. 
  • 16% felt motivated. 15% felt focused. 

Challenging circumstances can bring out strength, skills, and confidence. As Glennon Doyle says, “We can do hard things.”  

Self-Care Tips 

A person’s mental health in the workplace is more than a few self-care tips or mindset shifts. A nurse’s well-being takes structural and institutional support—and it takes the public engaging in pandemic-ending actions to release the burden on nurses and the healthcare system. 

Until then, what can you do?  

You may have entered the nursing profession because you have a big heart and a deep care for others. You may be a giver who thrives on helping other people. So here are a few things to remember and to try.

Be Your #1 Patient 

It’s a cliché, but you can’t pour from an empty cup. Be your #1 patient and put your health and well-being at the top of your list. What does your body need? How can you give it to yourself? 

Trust That What You’re Able to Do Is Enough 

You matter, and every action you take for a patient’s care makes a difference. You only have one body and two hands. Do what you can and know that it’s enough. 


Take micro-breaks throughout the day to rest your eyes, come back to your body, and breathe. 

Put your hand on your heart. Feel your feet on the ground. After a shift, gift yourself with some time alone in the car or out in nature, or simply sitting somewhere you’ll be unbothered. Give yourself the time and space to rest mentally and physically. 


With your time away from nursing, doing something that feels good and fun—whether that’s alone or with others. Give your body and your senses something enjoyable, and maybe even carefree. 

Reach Out for Support 

Know that you’re not alone and that support is available! Talking to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist can help navigate these deeply challenging circumstances. Letting others support you is a great way to feel even just a little bit better.  

Recharge with the ANA-Illinois Virtual Professional Issues Conference 

Taking a step back to get inspired is another way to refuel and recharge. The ANA-Illinois’ 2021 Professional Issues Conference: Shape the Future: Diversity. Equity. Inclusion will be held virtually on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. 

The one-day, virtual conference includes a keynote from Buck Davis specifically on resilience. Here’s what he says, “My work has always been about helping people find ways to bring out the best in others and themselves. I have an MBA and a Master’s in Professional Counseling, which, together, have provided a nice, blended foundation for understanding the business to human connection at work. I’m also relentlessly positive. And I am unabashedly passionate about sharing what I’ve learned (and still learning) that helps make life a more positive experience.” 

Register for the conference to enjoy this—and other!—inspiring messages. Registration is easy and affordable.

*American Nurses Foundation, Pulse on the Nation’s Nurses COVID-19 Survey Series: Year One COVID-19 Impact Assessment, February 2021.