28-yr-old nurse dies by suicide, leaves troubling letter to her ‘abuser’ – the US healthcare system

The family of a former nurse in Ohio is blaming the nation’s healthcare system for her decision to take her own life.

Tristin Kate Smith worked in a hospital emergency room in Dayton, Ohio, as a nurse before she committed suicide in August, devastating and shocking her family and friends. But their pain was magnified when they reportedly discovered the 28-year-old had written a letter to her “abuser” – that being the U.S. healthcare system  – months before she died.

The letter, titled “A Letter to My Abuser,” was published in the local Ohio paper, The Oakwood Register, earlier this month along with a message from her father.

“You’re reading this now because Tristin’s story needs to be told. We need to take action. Our nation’s healthcare system is broken, and it broke our girl,” he wrote. “Her passion for nursing has turned into a nightmare. Tristin was in trouble. Nurses are in trouble.”

Indeed, Smith’s letter drew more attention to what the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported about “record levels of burnout, harassment and desire to leave the field among healthcare workers,” according to the Daily Mail.

Smith lamented in her letter that the system had effectively “taken my heart and slowly crushed the goodness it had.”

“You asked my colleagues and me what we needed to help patients and improve satisfaction scores, and we told you the truth. But then you sent us to online courses that taught us to just smile more and be friendlier to the patients,” she wrote. “That’s when I began to understand your true cruelty and manipulation.”

Smith labeled her “abusive partner” as “relentless,” recounting how “each day” she was asked to “do more with less.”

Daily Mail reported:

The CDC report found the number of healthcare practitioners experiencing harassment at work shot up from six percent to 13 percent between 2018 and 2022.

Examples included violent threats, bullying and verbal abuse from patients and coworkers.

The data was from 226 health workers in 2018 and 325 health workers in 2022.

The report also found harassment had a big impact on mental health. Nurses who said they’d been harassed were five times more likely to report anxiety compared to those who were not, three times more likely to be depressed and nearly six times as likely to report burnout.

 

“You beat me to the point that my body and mind are black, bruised, and bleeding out,” Smith wrote. “You use and exploit us to line your pockets, using the common citizen’s money for overpriced healthcare.”

Healthcare workers and working conditions have continued to make headlines as workers have gone on strike in several locations including Minnesota, California, and in New York where more than 7,000 nurses from Mount Sinai walked out.

“The average registered nurse in Minnesota earns $84,030 a year, or an hourly salary of $40.40 – making the state the 13th ranked in the nation, according to Nurse Journal,” Daily Mail noted. “In California, registered nurses earn $124,000; Southern and Midwestern states pay the least, with Alabama nurses earning $61,000 per year.”

But it is the mental toll that seems to be cited in many of the criticisms of the system, with a study published last month in the medical journal JAMA, finding that “the risk of suicide was higher for health care workers compared with non–health care workers including specifically registered nurses, health care support workers, and health technicians.”

“Heightened suicide risk for registered nurses, health care support workers, and health technicians highlights the need for concerted efforts to support their mental health,” the study noted.

“We need to understand that licensed health care professionals in this country are suffering from very high degrees of depression and mental health concerns,” Corey Feist, co-founder and CEO of the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation, said.“And yet they uniquely have penalties when they just simply obtain the same mental health treatment that you or I can obtain, they could potentially lose their license or lose their ability to work in a hospital.”

For those experiencing a suicide crisis, calling/texting 988 or chatting 988Lifeline.org. will connect you with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

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