Study finds that US healthcare workers are more emotionally exhausted amid pandemic 

September 22, 2022 – A new study from JAMA Network Open has found that emotional exhaustion among healthcare workers in the US has worsened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and even threatens to compromise patient care.  

Researchers from Duke University analyzed more than 107,000 responses to the electronic Safety, Communication, Organizational Reliability, Physician, and Employee Burnout and Engagement survey conducted from September 2019 to September 2020 and September 2021 to January 2022.  

“The challenges posed by COVID-19 have been an excessive test to human well-being around the world. Few groups experienced this stress more acutely than the health care workers who persistently placed themselves in harm’s way to serve patients,” researchers noted.  

Here are the main takeaways: 

  • Estimated rates of emotional exhaustion rose from 31.8 percent to 40.4 percent, a proportional increase of 26.9 percent during the study period. 
  • Physicians reported less emotional exhaustion from 2019 to 2020 at 31.8 percent, down to 28.3 percent, but more emotional exhaustion in 2021 at 37.8 percent.  
  • Nurses’ level of emotional exhaustion rose from 40.6 percent in 2019 to 46.5 percent in 2020 and 49.2 percent in 2021 and 2022. 
  • Healthcare workers in roles other than nursing showed a comparable but milder trend in emotional exhaustion.   
  • Healthcare workers in every role reported that their colleagues had higher emotional exhaustion than they experienced, reflecting previous research that indicates people tend to be unrealistically optimistic about their own health and wellbeing compared to others. 

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