Post-traumatic stress and psychological distress amongst healthcare workers during COVID-19 pandemic

Bottom Line:

During an epidemic, healthcare workers have greater levels of both acute or post-traumatic stress and psychological distress. Effective intervention measures have been shown to help mitigate the psychological distress experienced by healthcare workers that are caring for affected patients in an emerging disease outbreak.


Kisely, S. et al. Occurrence, prevention, and management of the psychological effects of emerging virus outbreaks on healthcare workers: rapid review and meta-analysis. BMJ (2020).

Date Published:

5 May 2020


Viral epidemics such as SARS, H1N1 influenza, MERS, Ebola, and the current COVID-19 pandemic have raised similar problems for health services and healthcare workers with regards to the psychological impact from increased workload, need for personal protection, and fears of infection for themselves and their families. This rapid review and meta-analysis study describes the individual, service, and societal risk factors for adverse psychological outcomes; factors that decrease these outcomes; and provides recommendations on how to deal with psychological distress or minimize them in healthcare workers during epidemics. Some of the risk factors for psychological distress among healthcare workers included being younger, being more junior, being the parents of dependent children, and having an infected family member. Furthermore, longer quarantine period, lack of practical support, and stigma have also been shown to contribute to psychological distress. Some factors that decrease the risk of adverse psychological distress included clear communication, access to adequate personal protection, adequate rest, increased work experience, support from family and peers, and both practical and psychological support from the administration. Psychological distress is to be expected in situations where healthcare workers are under pressure to look after a large number of infected patients; however, employers, colleagues, and family members can help mitigate this by implementing several effective interventions. Additionally, WHO recommends to highlight the effectiveness of preventive measures rather than focusing on individual behaviour and presumed responsibility for having or spreading COVID-19 in order to minimize psychosocial effects of the outbreak.

Summary by: Parth Patel