Covid-19: Four in five medical consultants facing burnout due to pandemic

About 64% said pandemic has had adverse effect on their mental health – study

Some 84 per cent of hospital consultants reported that the pandemic has had an adverse effect on their workload. Photograph: iStock

Some 84 per cent of hospital consultants reported that the pandemic has had an adverse effect on their workload. Photograph: iStock

 

Almost four in five Irish medical consultants are experiencing burnout as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new study.

The level of burnout among consultants at 77 per cent is nearly double that of a recent study of junior doctors (42 per cent).

Some 84 per cent of hospital consultants reported that the pandemic has had an adverse effect on their workload, and 14 per cent reported a severe impact.

Nearly two-thirds, 64 per cent, reported that the pandemic has had an adverse effect on their mental health, with 11 per cent reporting a severe adverse impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

The online study by the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has been published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science.

The authors said that the Covid-19 pandemic “has exacerbated the pre-existing strain related to low baseline staffing and a high number of vacant posts”.

Doctors are less likely to suffer from the isolation of being based at home, but many have been unable to visit relatives and friends for more than 11 months.

“In addition, the changes to work practice including remote consultations, a reduction in routine work, and the concerns about the shift of emphasis away from non-Covid care and vulnerable groups,” the researchers said.

The authors of the study include consultant psychiatrist Dr Anne Doherty and IHCA vice-president Dr Gabrielle Colleran.

Major issue

Just over one-in-five hospital consultants responded to the survey and the authors admitted that it was a relatively small sample size, but they believe it was large enough to highlight that burnout in senior doctors is a major issue. Previous studies in the United Kingdom and Ireland had reported similar findings.

“This study highlights the need for further research into burnout in senior doctors which will allow identification of patterns of difficulties, higher risk groups, and to inform suggestions for management of this problem and to find solutions,” they said.

They further stated that a more comprehensive evaluation of the effect of the pandemic on frontline clinical staff, especially in the areas of burnout and long Covid, was required.

“This study suggests significant levels of burnout and mental health difficulties which will require the implementation of measures to manage this,” they said.

“In addition to supportive measures such as reflective practice groups, and formal psychological supports, there may be a need to consider the conditions in which frontline clinical professionals work, in order to support this essential workforce and minimise the risk of moral injury and burnout.”