The Impact of COVID-19 on Physician Burnout Globally: A Review

Healthcare (Basel). 2020 Oct 22;8(4):421. doi: 10.3390/healthcare8040421.


Background: The current pandemic, COVID-19, has added to the already high levels of stress that medical professionals face globally. While most health professionals have had to shoulder the burden, physicians are not often recognized as being vulnerable and hence little attention is paid to morbidity and mortality within this group. Objective: To analyse and summarise the current knowledge on factors/potential factors contributing to burnout amongst healthcare professionals amidst the pandemic. This review also makes a few recommendations on how best to prepare intervention programmes for physicians. Methods: In August 2020, a systematic review was performed using the database Medline and Embase (OVID) to search for relevant papers on the impact of COVID-19 on physician burnout-the database was searched for terms such as "COVID-19 OR pandemic" AND "burnout" AND "healthcare professional OR physician". A manual search was done for other relevant studies included in this review. Results: Five primary studies met the inclusion criteria. A further nine studies were included which evaluated the impact of occupational factors (n = 2), gender differences (n = 4) and increased workload/sleep deprivation (n = 3) on burnout prior to the pandemic. Additionally, five reviews were analysed to support our recommendations. Results from the studies generally showed that the introduction of COVID-19 has heightened existing challenges that physicians face such as increasing workload, which is directly correlated with increased burnout. However, exposure to COVID-19 does not necessarily correlate with increased burnout and is an area for more research. Conclusions: There is some evidence showing that techniques such as mindfulness may help relieve burnout. However, given the small number of studies focusing on physician burnout amidst a pandemic, conclusions should be taken with caution. More studies are needed to support these findings.

Keywords: burnout; health; pandemic; physician.

Publication types

  • Review