Insight into resident burnout, mental wellness, and coping mechanisms early in the COVID-19 pandemic

PLoS One. 2021 Apr 15;16(4):e0250104. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0250104. eCollection 2021.


Background: Acute augmentation of stress and disruption of training, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, may impact resident wellbeing.

Objectives: We investigated how residents in various specialties in the United States were impacted by COVID-19 on mental wellbeing and resilience levels, and the methodology for coping with the stress incurred.

Methods: In April 2020, the authors electronically surveyed 200 residency programs of all specialties nationally. The survey utilized two validated questionnaires to assess wellbeing and resilience, while investigating demographics and coping mechanisms. The authors used student t-test and ANOVA to quantitatively analyze the data.

Results: The sample consisted of 1115 respondents (with an 18% response rate). Male gender & Age >39 years were associated with more favorable average well-being indices (both p<0.01). Regarding resources, institutional support (IS) appeared favorable for resident well-being (IS 2.74, SD1.96 vs NoIS 3.71, SD2.29, p<0.01) & resilience (IS 3.72, SD0.70 vs NoIS 3.53, SD0.73, p = 0.05). The effects of mindfulness practices (MP) were not statistically significant for improvement of wellness (MP 2.87, SD 1.99 vs No MP 2.76, SD 2.15, p = 0.85) or resilience (MP 3.71, SD 0.70 vs No MP 3.72, SD 0.68, p = 0.87).

Conclusions: Findings highlight the critical importance of resident mental status in cases of augmented stress situations. Institutional support may contribute to promotion of resident wellbeing.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology*
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Pandemics
  • Resilience, Psychological
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

The authors received no funding for this work.