Burnout in healthcare workers post COVID crisis

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Anthony Collins, a fourth year Medical Student from UWI Mona in Kingston, Jamaica. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

It’s no secret that COVID-19 ravaged the world and changed it forever, especially the healthcare system and its workers. It has led to burnout, a phenomenon characterized by physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes toward oneself and others. It results from performing at a high level until stress and tension, especially from extreme and prolonged physical or mental exertion or an overburdening workload, take their toll. This was so during the heights of the pandemic when patient volumes exceeded hospital capacities while physicians to their own detriment fought to keep everyone alive while neglecting themselves in the process. Burnout is now higher than ever post COVID due to a myriad of factors.

“Too many hours at work” was third on the list of factors contributing to burnout in the 2022 MedScape report. It’s not uncommon for healthcare workers to work 40+ hours a week which can leave them demotivated as they are worn down by the excess workload as the workplace may be understaffed. This was so during the pandemic as more patients were critical than there was staff to look after them. Such inhumane working hours has led to a decline in quality of care and staff. This can be rectified via hiring more staff and scheduling better to prevent burnout.

An increase in administrative tasks has been seen which also contributes to burnout. A recent Mayo Clinic study puts it even higher, with the average physician spending roughly half of their workday plus 28 additional night and weekend hours per month completing EHR tasks. This in combination with their other duties to patients is more than enough for anyone to quit. This can be rectified via delegation with a scribe or medical assistant to decrease the workload.

Lastly, lack of organizational support may be the biggest contributor to burnout. Many organizations do not have support groups or wellness programs or any measures to measure morale among their workers. This is detrimental as proper workplace dynamics and interpersonal relationships are essential to productivity. Hospitals can support their workers in a variety of ways, whether it’s teaching better break scheduling, holding departmental meetings to talk about health, or creating comfortable respite areas.

As we readjust to our new normal in the post COVID-19 era it is important to remember that burnout is real and detrimental to not just the physician’s health but to the patient’s. Measures to reduce burnout include three important pillars: relief from stressors recuperation via relaxation and sport, and “return to reality” in terms of abandoning the ideas of perfection.


APA Dictionary of Psychology

Burnout in Healthcare Workers: Prevalence, Impact and Preventative Strategies – PMC (nih.gov)

How to Prevent Nurse Burnout | Tips to Reduce Burnout Syndrome (guidewaycare.com)

About the author

Anthony Collins is a fourth year Medical Student from UWI Mona in Kingston, Jamaica. He’s very passionate about research, forensics and pathology and therefore spends his time gaining experience in those areas. He also volunteers to help those in need and the environment. He serves as the Vice President of External Affairs of JAMSA Jamaica (a member of IFMSA), secretary for the Rotaract Club of UWI Mona and Assistant Treasurer for UWI One Life where he gains further personal and professional development as a student leader serving his fellow students.

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