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ED Staff Reported Poor Mental Health During Early Pandemic

WEDNESDAY, April 28, 2021 -- Work-related anxiety, emotional exhaustion, and burnout were common across the full spectrum of emergency department staff during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study recently published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Robert M. Rodriguez, M.D., from the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues assessed symptoms of anxiety and burnout, specific COVID-19 work-related stressors, and risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among frontline emergency department health care personnel (1,606 physicians, nurses, advanced practice providers, and nonclinical emergency department personnel at 20 geographically diverse U.S. emergency departments). Further, surveys (May 13 to July 8, 2020) were used to assess whether COVID-19 serologic testing of health care providers decreased self-reported anxiety.

The researchers found that at baseline, nearly half of respondents (46 percent) reported symptoms of emotional exhaustion and burnout from their work, and 19.2 percent screened positive for increased PTSD risk. Positive PTSD screens were more likely among female respondents (odds ratio, 2.03). The most commonly cited concerns included exposing their family and the health of coworkers diagnosed with COVID-19. More than half of respondents (54 percent) somewhat agreed, agreed, or strongly agreed that knowledge of their immune status after receiving antibody test results decreased their anxiety. However, a positive serology result (indicating prior severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection) was also associated with a higher likelihood of reporting decreased anxiety (odds ratio, 2.83).

"Emergency department personnel serve as the initial hospital caregivers for the majority of critically ill patients with known or suspected COVID-19 infection," Rodriguez said in a statement. "Protecting and maintaining the health of the emergency department workforce is imperative in the ongoing battle against COVID-19."

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