Original Research

The psychological impact of COVID-19 on frontline doctors in Tshwane public hospitals

Juliet D. Duffton, Marthinus J. Heystek, Andreas Engelbrecht, Suma Rajan, Renier A. Du Toit
South African Family Practice | Vol 65, No 1 : Part 4| a5807 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v65i1.5807 | © 2023 Juliet Denise Duffton, Marthinus Johannes Heystek, Andreas Engelbrecht, Suma Rajan, Renier du Toit | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 August 2023 | Published: 22 December 2023

About the author(s)

Juliet D. Duffton, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Marthinus J. Heystek, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Andreas Engelbrecht, Department of Family Medicine, Division of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Suma Rajan, Department of Family Medicine, Division of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Renier A. Du Toit, Military Health Research Centre, Military Psychological Institute, Pretoria, South Africa

Abstract

Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic placed immense pressure on frontline doctors. Burnout is a psychological syndrome that develops in response to chronic work stress. It consists of emotional exhaustion (EE), depersonalisation (DP) and reduced personal accomplishment (PA). Burnout is associated with personal dysfunction and compromises the work profession and patient safety. International studies suggest burnout is exacerbated during a pandemic.

Methods: We conducted a descriptive cross-sectional observational study. Respondents included frontline doctors working in emergency medicine, family medicine and internal medicine during COVID-19 in Tshwane public hospitals. The survey included two validated questionnaires, the Maslach Burnout Inventory and the Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale-21. The aim was to determine the prevalence and severity of burnout, psychological and somatic symptoms in frontline doctors.

Results: Of the 163 participants, we found clinical burnout to be present in 58.9% (n = 96) and extreme burnout in 19.6% (n = 32). Moderate to extremely severe levels of stress, anxiety and depression were present in 55.1% (n = 90), 43.6% (n = 71) and 22.1% (n = 36) of participants, respectively. We found significant correlations between burnout and psychological symptoms. Increased levels of burnout, anxiety, depression and stress were found to be meaningfully associated with adverse somatic symptoms.

Conclusion: Our study demonstrated an insufferably high prevalence of burnout and psychosomatic symptoms in frontline doctors during COVID-19. In the event of future pandemics, more measures should be taken to support frontline doctors.

Contribution: Pandemic-associated burnout and its psychophysical consequences have not been studied in frontline doctors in South Africa.


Keywords

burnout; depression; anxiety; stress; somatic symptoms; psychological; COVID-19; doctors; frontline; South Africa; pandemic

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

Metrics

Total abstract views: 892
Total article views: 621


Crossref Citations

No related citations found.