Physician Stress – Fear of Transmission

Angie Szumlinski Health, Studies

A recent study on Physician Stress and COVID was performed at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, and identified physician stress during the COVID-19 pandemic was moderate overall, although it was considerably higher in certain organizations. A 4-item stress summary score incorporating overall stress, fear, mental health concerns, and work overload had reasonable internal consistency. Average stress summary scores varied between specialties and organizations. Feeling valued by one’s organization was strongly associated with lower stress summary scores, explaining 31% of the variance in stress summary scores at the organizational level.

The majority of surveyed U.S. physicians are fearful of exposure or transmission. Stress is higher among certain groups (women, inpatient physicians, early- or mid-career clinicians, and those in frontline specialties), associated with perceived anxiety/depression and workload, and less when there is a sense of feeling valued by one’s organization.

Stress summary scores vary by organization and specialty. Being aware of one’s organizational stress may allow organizations to better understand the contributors to stress from COVID-related care. Knowing that 1,462 physicians (62%) were afraid of infection or transmission of the virus to loved ones suggests that focusing on addressing this issue has merit. Institutions should provide clear instructional guidelines to all health care workers about doffing procedures on return home from work to decrease both the risk of transmission and the anxiety that accompanies this risk. Have you addressed this practice with your team? Might be a good starting point, the pandemic may be waning, but our awareness of transmission concerns should not. Stay well, mask as appropriate and stay tuned!