Much of what we have learned about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health is based on preliminary empirical studies out of the Wuhan, China region, where the first cases of COVID-19 were reported. Three studies examined slightly different aspects of the pandemic’s effect on mental health in providers.
There is preliminary evidence that healthcare professionals report some degree of mental health disturbance while taking care of patients in the pandemic and that individuals involved in direct care, particularly if they are female, are at greatest risk. Additionally, nurses and healthcare providers in rural settings reported the highest level of mental health disturbance.Sources of stress for healthcare workers include:
- Uncertain access to personal protective equipment
- Exposure to COVID-19 at work
- Lack of access to COVID-19 testing
- Uncertainty about institutional support
- Childcare access
- Support for personal and family needs
- Competence if deployed to a new area
- Lack of effective communication
COVID-19 Related Anxiety Among Healthcare Providers
Several of the primary concerns focused on the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus, inadequate virus testing, and fear of passing the virus on to family members. Additionally, these providers articulated job-related concerns and concerns about support for their families during the pandemic. There were also clear concerns about being able to provide appropriate medical care effectively. The authors concluded that while tangible efforts to address many of their objective concerns were important, it was also critical that leaders of their health systems attempt to fully understand the sources of their anxiety, even if they cannot be easily addressed.
Shanafelt T, Ripp J, Trockel M. Understanding and Addressing Sources of Anxiety Among Health Care Professionals During the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA. 2020;323(21):2133–2134. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.5893