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COVID-19 Pandemic Tied to Burnout in Health Care Professionals

Emotional exhaustion and depersonalization increased as the pandemic wore on in 2020

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 5, 2022 (HealthDay News) — The COVID-19 pandemic is associated with higher burnout among health care professionals (HCPs), particularly patient-facing HCPs, according to a study published online Sept. 27 in BJPsych Open.

Vikas Kapil, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., from the Queen Mary University of London, and colleagues longitudinally examined mental health in 1,574 HCPs versus 147 non-HCPs and patient-facing HCPs versus non-patient-facing HCPs. The analysis included survey responses from baseline (July to September 2020), phase 2 (six weeks after baseline), and phase 3 (four months after baseline).

The researchers found generally higher rates of various probable mental health issues among HCPs versus non-HCPs at each phase, but no differences were significant, except that HCPs had a 2.5-fold increased risk for burnout at phase 2. Burnout further increased at phase 3 (odds ratios for emotional exhaustion and depersonalization, 3.32 and 3.29, respectively). Compared with non-patient-facing HCPs, at baseline, patient-facing HCPs had a fivefold increased risk for depersonalization, with no significant difference seen in the risk for other outcomes. This difference in depersonalization declined over time, but patient-facing HCPs still had a 2.7-fold increased risk for emotional exhaustion by phase 3.

“We should all be worried about the disproportionately high rates of burnout in health care professionals, which may persist and lead to an even greater staffing and retention crisis,” a coauthor said in a statement.

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