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Health care workers burnout during COVID-19 times: Major contributors and tangible solutions Health care workers burnout during COVID-19 times: Major contributors and tangible solutions
Health care workers burnout during COVID-19 times: Major contributors and tangible solutions Health care workers burnout during COVID-19 times: Major contributors and tangible solutions

More than 200 countries globally are impacted by the spread of novel coronavirus, a pathogen responsible for causing COVID-19, the most debilitating disease of the era. The healthcare systems are frantically maximizing their efforts to mitigate the spread and reduce COVID-19 associated mortality and morbidity. A potential increase in actions and excessive workload to cope lack of vital resources and extra work resulted in compounded stress and burnout among health care professionals in the wake of this global crisis. [1]

Burnout can be defined as a syndrome characterized by exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced effectiveness. Various factors such as; increased workload hours, limited resource availability, inadequate treatment guidelines, higher infection rates among health care workers and safety concerns have significantly contributed to increased physician burnout in pandemic time. It substantially affects physician turnover, quality of care, patient safety and satisfaction. Along with professional implications, it also impacts mental health and correlated with various physical ailments. Some preventive steps and mitigation strategies have been formed To ease and prevent physician burnout's personal and professional negative consequences. [2,3]

This article based on current scenario focuses on increased healthcare workers burnout, especially physicians and potential strategies for addressing this burden in COVID-19 time.




A recent Medscape survey on 7500 physicians of 8 countries states that the COVID-19 had caused a profound effect on their personal and professional lives. The United Kingdom had the highest percentage (55%) of physicians reporting increased stress and grief. Next were Spain and the United States (43%), France (42 %), Brazil and Mexico (34%), Portugal (32%), and Germany (25%). [4]

A 2020 Physician Burnout Survey published in Medical Economics reported that the COVID-19 pandemic had increased the feelings of burnout among 65% of physicians in the United States. The significant factors contributing to increased burnout in COVID-19 are a general feeling of helplessness (32%), shortages of personal protective equipment (30%), financial strain (50%), health and safety issue of the family (47%) and inability to care for the patient (41%). [5]

According to the Federal Medico-Biological Agency (Russia), 10% of medical staff have depression, and 40% of medical staff have problems coping with stress.  Research published in the JAMA Network had reported that about 1,257 medics in 34 hospitals in China have symptoms of depression, anxiety and sleeplessness, which has increased risk of clinical errors to 62% among depressed doctors. [6]

Another questionnaire-based survey conducted in India determined a significant prevalence of burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic among health care workers, particularly doctors and support staff, with female respondents having higher prevalence. [7]



Burnout was first described in the mid-1970s, by Freudenberger and Maslach. It is not a new concept, but this pandemic has accelerated the negative repercussions of uncertainty and inadequate support. It is defined as ''a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion resulting from long-term involvement in work situations''.

It is a multidimensional syndrome showing signs of depersonalization, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, and low personal accomplishment. Other warning signs for physician burnout are described below in Fig. 1 [8]: 



A variety of factors can contribute to the increased burnout among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the clinical evidence for proven factors contributing to burnout during COVID-19 times is lacking. Some aspects which are derived from the existing knowledge of physician burnout amidst pandemic to guide best in providing support for health care professionals during these unprecedented times are explained below:


Occupational Factors

Various studies have focused on assessing the occupational factors associated with increased burnout in pandemic times. It is reported that physicians working in the front line wards are less prone to burden and burnout compared to those working in the usual wards. Also, the physicians who are more exposed to COVID-19 patients showed a higher incidence of burnout than those who were not exposed.