Relationship between COVID-19 care and burnout among postgraduate clinical residents in Japan: a nationwide cross-sectional study

BMJ Open. 2023 Jan 13;13(1):e066348. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-066348.


Objective: The relationship between the care of patients with COVID-19 and mental health among resident physicians in Japan is imperative for ensuring appropriate care of patients with COVID-19 and should be clarified. We herein assessed the relationship between the care of patients with COVID-19 and mental health among postgraduate year 1 (PGY-1) and PGY-2 resident physicians and factors associated with mental health.

Design: This nationwide cross-sectional study analysed data obtained using the clinical training environment self-reported questionnaire.

Setting: An observational study across Japan among resident physicians (PGY-1 and PGY-2) from 583 teaching hospitals.

Participants: Examinees who took the general medicine in-training examination of academic year 2020.

Primary and secondary outcome measures: The Patient Health Questionnaire and Mini-Z 2.0 were used to assess mental health, and experience of caring for patients with COVID-19 was divided into three groups (none, 1-10 and ≥11). The prevalence of mental conditions in the three groups was compared using the 'modified' Poisson generalised estimating equations by adjusting for prefecture-level, hospital-level and resident-level variables.

Results: Of the 5976 participants analysed, 50.9% were PGY-1. The prevalence of burnout was 21.4%. Moreover, 47.0% of all resident physicians had no experience in the care of patients with COVID-19. The well-experienced group accounted for only 7.9% of the total participants. A positive association was found between the number of caring patients with COVID-19 and burnout (prevalence ratio 1.25; 95% CI 1.02 to 1.53). Moreover, the shortage of personal protective equipment was identified as a major contributor to burnout (prevalence ratio 1.60; 95% CI 1.36 to 1.88).

Conclusions: Resident physicians who experienced more care of patients with COVID-19 had slightly greater burnout prevalence than those who did not. Approximately half of resident physicians did not participate in the care of patients with COVID-19, which posed a challenge from an educational perspective.

Keywords: COVID-19; general medicine (see internal medicine); medical education & training; mental health.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional* / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional* / psychology
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / therapy
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Japan / epidemiology