COVID-19 Has Increased Burnout, Desire for Career Change in Cardiology

Results of a well-being study presented at ACC.21 paint a grim picture related to the impact of COVID-19 on burnout and well-being among cardiology professionals. We sat down with lead investigator Laxmi Mehta, MD, for further perspective on the issue.

New research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 70th Annual Scientific Session (ACC.21) is confirming what many cardiovascular clinicians already know all too well: the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated burnout across the spectrum of care providers.

Using survey data from more than 1200 clinicians, which included cardiologists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, and imaging technologists, investigators found rates of burnout nearly doubled during the pandemic and also identified major pitfalls related to organizational support from health systems.

“We know from previous studies that burnout is pervasive in cardiology and medicine in general, but we felt it was important to take the temperature of our colleagues amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The prevalence of burnout among cardiovascular professionals nearly doubled when comparing pre- to peak COVID-19 levels,” said lead investigator Laxmi Mehta, MD, Vice Chair of Wellness for the Department of Internal Medicine at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, in a statement. “It clearly shows that there are lots of opportunities to improve the work environment; COVID-19 has really put a magnifying glass on the fact that things were bad and now have significantly worsened.”

Chair of the ACC’s Task Force on Clinician Well-Being, Mehta has led a multitude of studies examining clinician burnout among the cardiology workforce. The analysis presented at ACC.21 was created as a follow-up of a previous well-being survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 among cardiovascular clinicians.

Mehta and a team of colleagues sought to compare self-perceived burnout and daily workload using data from Mini-Z surveys sent prior to the pandemic and in November 2020. Surveys were sent via email to 10,019 clinicians and 1288 returned responses. This group of 1288 included 456 US cardiologists, 436 international cardiologists, 128 trainees, and 268 cardiology team members. Among this patient population, reported burnout increased from 20% pre-pandemic to 38% during the pandemic (P <.001).

Survey responses from November 2020 indicated about 50% of cardiovascular professionals provided direct in-person care for patients with COVID-19. However, investigators noted 21% reported not having adequate PPE and 41% reported experiencing a reduction in salary.

Additionally, the survey responses indicated many felt their health system provided inadequate support during the pandemic. Specifically, 41% reported inadequate support related to workers’ basic needs, 41% reported inadequate support for childcare, and 45% reported inadequate emotional support.

“While we are resilient, these results show that we really need to be focusing on fixing the work environment, including ensuring that we have enough PPE, feeling valued and safe at work, improving team dynamics and efficiencies, which are all essential whether there is COVID-19 or not. Organizations need to focus on improving workforce care not just patient care,” Mehta added.

For more perspective on how COVID-19 has impacted rates of burnout and clinician well-being, Practical Cardiology reached out to Mehta and that discussion is the subject of this edition of the Practical Cardiology Podcast.

This study, “Impact Of COVID-19 On the Global Cardiovascular Workforce: The ACC 2020 Well Being Study,” was presented at ACC.21.