The coronavirus pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of everyday life and continues to have devastating effects worldwide. It has also taken a significant toll on cardiovascular clinicians, many of whom provide direct care to patients with COVID-19, according to results of a new survey presented at the American College of Cardiology's 70th Annual Scientific Session.
Among those surveyed, burnout increased from 20% to 38% during the peak of the pandemic. Rates of burnout pre- and peak COVID-19 increased across all members of the cardiology team and was particularly striking among cardiovascular team members, which researchers said may be because they were more likely at the bedside as patients were dying. Among all cardiovascular clinicians--cardiologists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists and imaging technologists--half provided direct care to patients with COVID-19, and yet 1 out of 5 reported not having adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). Not surprisingly, the rate of burnout was higher in this group.
"We know from previous studies that burnout is pervasive in cardiology and medicine in general, but we felt it was important to take the temperature of our colleagues amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The prevalence of burnout among cardiovascular professionals nearly doubled when comparing pre- to peak COVID-19 levels," said Laxmi Mehta, MD, vice chair of wellness for the Department of Internal Medicine at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and the study's lead author. "It clearly shows that there are lots of opportunities to improve the work environment; COVID-19 has really put a magnifying glass on the fact that things were bad and now have significantly worsened."
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The survey revealed that some cardiovascular clinicians are thinking about leaving their jobs, in some cases, because of COVID-19. Plans to reduce clinical work hours in the next year, leave their current practice or retire early were reported by 23%, 13% and 13% of respondents, respectively, and notably higher among those who reported feeling burnt out. For some, COVID-19 is the key influencer for these decisions, with 17% of clinicians planning to reduce their clinical work hours, 12% planning to leave their current practice and 11% planning to retire due to COVID-19. The survey also revealed financial stressors exacerbated by COVID-19, with 41% of respondents reporting that their salary had been reduced to some degree. Roughly the same percentage of clinicians also reported inadequate health system support during the pandemic related to workers' basic needs, such as food, lodging, transportation, childcare and emotional support.