Prevalence and correlates of stress and burnout among U.S. healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic: A national cross-sectional survey study

EClinicalMedicine. 2021 May 16;35:100879. doi: 10.1016/j.eclinm.2021.100879. eCollection 2021 May.


Background: COVID-19 has put extraordinary stress on healthcare workers. Few studies have evaluated stress by worker role, or focused on experiences of women and people of color.

Methods: The "Coping with COVID" survey assessed US healthcare worker stress. A stress summary score (SSS) incorporated stress, fear of exposure, anxiety/depression and workload (Omega 0.78). Differences from mean were expressed as Cohen's d Effect Sizes (ESs). Regression analyses tested associations with stress and burnout.

Findings: Between May 28 and October 1, 2020, 20,947 healthcare workers responded from 42 organizations (median response rate 20%, Interquartile range 7% to 35%). Sixty one percent reported fear of exposure or transmission, 38% reported anxiety/depression, 43% suffered work overload, and 49% had burnout. Stress scores were highest among nursing assistants, medical assistants, and social workers (small to moderate ESs, p < 0.001), inpatient vs outpatient workers (small ES, p < 0.001), women vs men (small ES, p < 0.001), and in Black and Latinx workers vs Whites (small ESs, p < 0.001). Fear of exposure was prevalent among nursing assistants and Black and Latinx workers, while housekeepers and Black and Latinx workers most often experienced enhanced meaning and purpose. In multilevel models, odds of burnout were 40% lower in those feeling valued by their organizations (odds ratio 0.60, 95% CIs [0.58, 0.63], p< 0.001).

Interpretation: Stress is higher among nursing assistants, medical assistants, social workers, inpatient workers, women and persons of color, is related to workload and mental health, and is lower when feeling valued.

Keywords: Allied health professionals; Burnout; COVID-19; Mental health; Nursing; Occupational stress.