Healthcare workers experienced varying waves of burnout depending on their roles throughout the pandemic, but more reported feeling emotional exhausted as they worked through the second year of the public health crisis than the first, according to research published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open.
From September 2019 to September 2021, healthcare workers reporting emotional exhaustion rose from 32% to 35% then again to 40% through January 2022, the study found.
Researchers conducted surveys in three waves at different points during the pandemic, analyzing responses from over 30,000 healthcare workers in clinical and nonclinical settings at 76 community hospitals within two large health systems.
Nurses reported an increase in emotional exhaustion during the first year of the pandemic from 41% to 47%, then again during the second year to 49%.
Physicians however reported a decrease in emotional exhaustion during the first year, from 32% to 28% then a rise during the second year to 38%.
Another recent article published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found about 63% of physicians surveyed experienced at least one manifestation of burnout in 2021, up from 38% in 2020, and scores for emotional exhaustion and depersonalization were higher in 2021 while satisfaction with work-life balance dropped.
Respondents in the JAMA study were also asked to evaluate levels of emotional distress in their colleagues, and across roles and years reported higher emotional exhaustion in their colleagues than in themselves, the study found.
The study “offers substantial evidence that emotional exhaustion trajectories varied by role but have increased overall and among most [healthcare worker] roles since the onset of the pandemic,” researchers wrote.
“These results suggest that current HCW well-being resources and programs may be inadequate and even more difficult to use owing to lower workforce capacity and motivation to initiate and complete well-being interventions,” they wrote.