The Impact of COVID-19 on Healthcare Worker Wellness

A Scoping Review

Jacob Shreffler, PhD; Jessica Petrey, MSLS; Martin Huecker, MD

Disclosures

Western J Emerg Med. 2020;21(5):1059-1066. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

At the heart of the unparalleled crisis of COVID-19, healthcare workers (HCWs) face several challenges treating patients with COVID-19: reducing the spread of infection; developing suitable short-term strategies; and formulating long-term plans. The psychological burden and overall wellness of HCWs has received heightened awareness in news and research publications. The purpose of this study was to provide a review on current publications measuring the effects of COVID-19 on wellness of healthcare providers to inform interventional strategies. Between April 6–May 17, 2020, we conducted systematic searches using combinations of these keywords and synonyms in conjunction with the controlled vocabulary of the database: "physician," "wellness, "wellbeing," "stress," "burnout," "COVID-19," and "SARS-CoV-2." We excluded articles without original data, research studies regarding the wellness of non-healthcare occupations or the general public exclusively, other outbreaks, or wellness as an epidemic. A total of 37 studies were included in this review. The review of literature revealed consistent reports of stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms in HCWs as a result of COVID-19. We describe published data on HCW distress and burnout but urge future research on strategies to enhance HCW well-being.

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant burdens globally. Detrimental effects include high rates of infection and death, financial hardships faced by individuals, stress related to known and particularly unknown information, and fear of the uncertainty regarding continued impact. Healthcare workers (HCWs), at the heart of the unparalleled crisis of COVID-19, face challenges treating patients with COVID-19: reducing the spread of infection; developing suitable short-term strategies; and formulating long-term plans. HCWs must also continue to successfully treat non-COVID patients and maintain personal responsibilities, including taking care of their families and themselves. The psychological burden and overall wellness of HCWs has received heightened awareness, with research continuing to show high rates of burnout, psychological stress, and suicide.[1]

HCWs experience emotional exhaustion, which may lead to medical errors, lack of empathy in treating patients, lower productivity, and higher turnover rates.[2] The ability of HCWs to adequately cope with stressors is important for their patients, their families, and themselves. Providers vary in levels of psychological resilience, the ability to positively adapt to adversity to protect themselves from stress.[3] Prior to COVID-19, wide-ranging research had established the multifactorial nature of stressors in healthcare: electronic health record duties; insurance and billing issues; any patient dissatisfaction; and balancing busy work-life schedules.[4]

HCWs must continue to balance these existing obstacles to wellness while facing the unique challenges of a pandemic. Literature from severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome can provide insight on the stress, trauma, psychological morbidities, and successful interventions, but the body of evidence for the impact COVID-19 on HCW wellness is evolving alongside the pathogen. The purpose of this study was to provide a review of current publications measuring the effects of COVID-19 on wellness of the HCWs to inform interventional strategies.

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