Objectives: The COVID-19 outbreak has caused enormous strain on healthcare systems, and healthcare trainees, which comprise the future healthcare workforce, may be a vulnerable group. It is essential to assess the psychological distress experienced by healthcare trainees during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Design, setting and participants: A cross-sectional study with 4184 healthcare trainees at Sichuan University in China was implemented during 7-13 February 2020. Participants were grouped by training programmes (medicine, medical technology and nursing) and training stages (undergraduate, postgraduate and residency).
Main outcomes: COVID-19-related psychological distress and acute stress reaction (ASR) were assessed using the Kessler 6-item Psychological Distress Scale and the Impact of Event Scale-Revised, respectively. We estimated the ORs of distress by comparing trainees across programmes and training stages using multivariable logistic regression.
Results: Significant psychological distress was found in 1150 (30.90%) participants and probable ASR in 403 (10.74%). Compared with the nursing trainees, the medical trainees (OR 1.54, 95% CI 1.22 to 1.95) reported a higher burden of psychological distress during the outbreak, while the medical technology trainees (OR 1.25, 95% CI 0.97 to 1.62) reported similar symptom scores. Postgraduates (OR 1.55, 95% CI 1.16 to 2.08) in medicine had higher levels of distress than their undergraduate counterparts did, whereas the nursing residents (OR 0.38, 95% CI 0.20 to 0.71) reported a lower burden than did nursing undergraduates. A positive association was found between having active clinical duties during the outbreak and distress (OR 1.17, 95% CI 0.98 to 1.39), particularly among the medical trainees (OR 1.85, 95% CI 1.47 to 2.33) and undergraduates (OR 4.20, 95% CI 1.61 to 11.70). No clear risk patterns of ASR symptoms were observed.
Conclusions: Medical trainees, particularly postgraduates and those with active clinical duties, were at risk for psychological distress during the COVID-19 outbreak. Stress management may be considered for high-risk healthcare trainees.
Keywords: COVID-19; epidemiology; medical education & training; mental health; psychiatry.
© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ.