Psychological distress, coping behaviors, and preferences for support among New York healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2020 Sep-Oct:66:1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2020.06.007. Epub 2020 Jun 16.


Objective: The mental health toll of COVID-19 on healthcare workers (HCW) is not yet fully described. We characterized distress, coping, and preferences for support among NYC HCWs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional web survey of physicians, advanced practice providers, residents/fellows, and nurses, conducted during a peak of inpatient admissions for COVID-19 in NYC (April 9th-April 24th 2020) at a large medical center in NYC (n = 657).

Results: Positive screens for psychological symptoms were common; 57% for acute stress, 48% for depressive, and 33% for anxiety symptoms. For each, a higher percent of nurses/advanced practice providers screened positive vs. attending physicians, though housestaff's rates for acute stress and depression did not differ from either. Sixty-one percent of participants reported increased sense of meaning/purpose since the COVID-19 outbreak. Physical activity/exercise was the most common coping behavior (59%), and access to an individual therapist with online self-guided counseling (33%) garnered the most interest.

Conclusions: NYC HCWs, especially nurses and advanced practice providers, are experiencing COVID-19-related psychological distress. Participants reported using empirically-supported coping behaviors, and endorsed indicators of resilience, but they also reported interest in additional wellness resources. Programs developed to mitigate stress among HCWs during the COVID-19 pandemic should integrate HCW preferences.

Keywords: Anxiety; COVID-19; Coping; Depression; Distress; Healthcare worker; Insomnia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Patient Preference / psychology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / psychology*
  • Psychological Distress*
  • Stress Disorders, Traumatic, Acute / psychology*