Factors associated with mental health of health care workers during coronavirus disease outbreaks

12/01/21

High rates of mental health problems among physicians, nurses and hospital-based personnel during the current COVID-19 pandemic have been described. Considering their great personal risk and pivotal role in tackling this global health crisis, adequate mental health care for health care workers is imperative. CEBaP performed a rapid systematic review to identify the best possible evidence on risk and protective factors for psychological outcomes in health care workers during coronavirus epidemics. The results of the literature review were recently published in the COVID-19 pandemic collection of PLOS ONE.

Out of 2605 references, 33 observational studies were selected and the identified risk and protective factors were categorized in ten thematic categories. Facing the critical situation of respiratory infectious disease outbreaks, health care workers on the front line, who are directly involved in the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with COVID-19, are at risk of developing psychological distress. The fear for contagion and infection contributed to the mental burden of the health care workers. Several organizational factors, including clear communication and directives, and organizational support, seem paramount in addition to protective factors such as health care workers’ perceptions of coping ability and social support. Embedding access to mental health support in a safe and efficient working environment, which promotes collegial social support and personal sense of control, could help to maximize resilience of health workers during the current global health crisis. 

Our results may inform decisions to safeguard the mental health of care providers during this and future respiratory infectious disease outbreaks. The Belgian Red Cross built further on the findings of this rapid review and implemented several strategies to protect their crisis volunteers from developing mental health problems. In addition to providing psychosocial self-help advice to the care providers, they continuously monitor their mental health status, ensure awareness of mental health initiatives, and launch information campaigns on mental health support and education.

Our literature review received national press attention and the results were disseminated to the healthcare sector by Zorgnet Icuro and De ZorgSamen.

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