Pandemic Heightened Emotional Exhaustion in Health Care Workers

During the COVID-19 pandemic, emotional exhaustion among health care workers worsened.

HealthDay News — Emotional exhaustion among health care workers (HCWs) worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online Sept. 21 in JAMA Network Open.

J. Bryan Sexton, Ph.D., from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues conducted three waves of a survey (September 2019: 37,187 respondents; September 2020: 38,460 respondents; and September 2021: 31,475 respondents) of hospital-based HCWs in clinical and nonclinical (e.g., administrative support) roles at 76 community hospitals within two large U.S. health care systems.

The researchers found that the overall percentage of respondents reporting emotional exhaustion (percent EE) increased from 31.8 to 40.4 percent, with a proportional increase of 26.9 percent. From 2019 to 2020, physicians had a decrease in percent EE from 31.8 to 28.3 percent; however, there was an increase during the second year of the pandemic to 37.8 percent. Nurses had consistent increases in percent EE from 40.6 percent in 2019 to 46.5 percent in 2020 to 49.2 percent in 2021. A pattern similar to nurses, but at lower levels, was seen for all other roles.

“Increases in emotional exhaustion may jeopardize care quality and necessitate additional support for the workforce,” the authors write.

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