Associations between psychosocial work factors and provider mental well-being in emergency departments: A systematic review

PLoS One. 2018 Jun 4;13(6):e0197375. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0197375. eCollection 2018.


Background: Emergency departments (ED) are complex and dynamic work environments with various psychosocial work stressors that increase risks for providers' well-being. Yet, no systematic review is available which synthesizes the current research base as well as quantitatively aggregates data on associations between ED work factors and provider well-being outcomes.

Objective: We aimed at synthesizing the current research base on quantitative associations between psychosocial work factors (classified into patient-/ task-related, organizational, and social factors) and mental well-being of ED providers (classified into positive well-being outcomes, affective symptoms and negative psychological functioning, cognitive-behavioural outcomes, and psychosomatic health complaints).

Methods: A systematic literature search in eight databases was conducted in December 2017. Original studies were extracted following a stepwise procedure and predefined inclusion criteria. A standardized assessment of methodological quality and risk of bias was conducted for each study with the Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies from the Effective Public Health Practice Project. In addition to a systematic compilation of included studies, frequency and strength of quantitative associations were synthesized by means of harvest plots. Subgroup analyses for ED physicians and nurses were conducted.

Results: N = 1956 records were retrieved. After removal of duplicates, 1473 records were screened for titles and abstracts. 199 studies were eligible for full-text review. Finally, 39 original studies were included whereof 37 reported cross-sectional surveys. Concerning the methodological quality of included studies, the majority was evaluated as weak to moderate with considerable risk of bias. Most frequently surveyed provider outcomes were affective symptoms (e.g., burnout) and positive well-being outcomes (e.g., job satisfaction). 367 univariate associations and 370 multivariate associations were extracted with the majority being weak to moderate. Strong associations were mostly reported for social and organizational work factors.

Conclusions: To the best of our knowledge, this review is the first to provide a quantitative summary of the research base on associations of psychosocial ED work factors and provider well-being. Conclusive results reveal that peer support, well-designed organizational structures, and employee reward systems balance the negative impact of adverse work factors on ED providers' well-being. This review identifies avenues for future research in this field including methodological advances by using quasi-experimental and prospective designs, representative samples, and adequate confounder control.

Trial registration: Protocol registration number: PROSPERO 2016 CRD42016037220.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Workplace / psychology*

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Munich Center for Health Sciences (MC-Health). The supporters had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.