Provider Experience and Mental Health Outcomes
The impact on provider experiences and mental health has been immense. One study of 510 healthcare providers (HCPs) and first responders found that occupational stress from the pandemic correlated with psychiatric symptoms, including depression, PTSD, insomnia, and generalized anxiety. 3 Occupational stress also correlated with one’s likelihood to leave the medical field and trouble doing work they had once loved. 3 Half of the healthcare workers surveyed indicated a decreased likelihood of staying in their current profession after the pandemic. 3
Other studies have also looked at specific subspecialties and impact on trainees during the pandemic. In neurosurgery, for example, resident burnout is high, at 26.1%. 9 Additionally, the lack of surgeries in the pandemic made 65.8% of neurosurgery residents anxious about meeting career milestones. 9 Respiratory therapists, a highly impacted group, also experienced burnout, reporting higher levels in those who worked more in the ICU. Another study identified several themes in the concerns reported by healthcare workers during the pandemic era including “changes in personal life and enhanced negative affect,” “gaining experience, normalization, and adaptation to the pandemic,” and “mental health considerations.” 22
Some studies have investigated ways to mitigate this dissatisfaction with the healthcare field post-pandemic. Intrapreneurship, reverse mentoring, and democratized learning all had a reported positive impact on employee experience and retention during this time. 23 Intrapreneurship describes entrepreneurship within an existing organization, while reverse mentoring and democratized learning refer to newer employees teaching older employees and communicative learning on a breadth of topics. Other studies have examined the necessity of having mental health resources available, and that these resources need to be multi-stage and individualistic as well as specific to certain stressors HCPs faced during the pandemic. 22
Conclusion and Future Directions
The COVID-19 pandemic had stark effects on the healthcare system, impacting resources and capacity, care of other diseases, and provider mental health and experiences. 1-3 After the chaos of the pandemic, many questions remain. What needs to be done now by health systems and HCPs? How can we learn from the challenges and the effects on capacity to change the healthcare workflow in times of crisis and in the present? How do we mitigate the impact of the pandemic on diagnosis and management of diseases? And how do we continue to provide healthcare workers with proper mental health and professional resources now, not just in times of stress, and encourage the future generation to pursue careers in healthcare?
These are all the questions the pandemic has left us with, and more studies and initiatives are needed to investigate solutions to these issues. The COVID-19 pandemic left behind valuable lessons and changed the healthcare system, disease management, and staffing for many. Now is the time to pick up the pieces and strategize on how to make our existing system more effective for workers and patients post pandemic.