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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Silent Epidemic: Nurse Suicides

By Gary Evans, Medical Writer

Overcoming the historic dearth of data on a critical issue, researchers have found that nurses are at higher risk of suicide than the general population. Researchers report that female nurse suicide rates in the United States were significantly higher than for women in general, with a rate of 11.9 per 100,000 nurses as compared to 7.5 suicides per 100,000 women in the population.

Male nurse suicides spiked even higher, with a rate of 39.8 per 100,000 as compared to 28.2 per 100,000 men in general, reports lead author Judy E. Davidson, DNP, RN, MCCM FAAN, Nurse Scientist at University of California San Diego (UCSD).

"We had a series of [nurse] suicides here in San Diego that piqued my interest in the topic,” she says. “So, I went to the literature and found out there was nothing. The data I could find about nurses in the U.S. was over 20 years old. But all of that old data was speaking to the point that nurses were probably at higher risk. For some reason, we had just let this research question go silent.”

The findings thus far already have resulted in significant national action, as the American Nurses Association (ANA) is forming a task force to look specifically at nurse suicide. Davidson was in already in discussions with ANA leadership on preventing nurse suicide, and then nurse members brought up the issue for discussion at this year at the group’s annual conference.

“They have asked us to collaborate with them on a task force that will start in the fall to look at suicide prevention in nursing,” she says.

For more on this story see the October 2019 issue of Hospital Employee Health.