Background: In early 2020, the impending COVID-19 pandemic placed a once-in-a-generation professional and personal challenge on healthcare workers. Publications on direct physical disease abound. The authors wanted to focus on doctors' psychological well-being.
Aims: To assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on doctors' well-being and evaluate their concerns as the pandemic progressed.
Methods: A mixed-methods, hospital-based survey was sent to doctors at the 650-bed tertiary referral hospital in NSW at two different periods (late-March and early May 2020). A validated mental well-being tool (Short Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (SWEMWBS)) was combined with COVID-19-specific questions.
Results: Two hundred and thirty-five responses were obtained from 450 doctors, with a response rate of 32% in the first survey and 20% in the second. The majority (35%) of respondents were doctors-in-training, followed by staff-specialists (23%). The highest response was from frontline workers in both surveys, including the intensive care unit (27%), anaesthesia (21%) and emergency department (13%). ‘Extreme concern’ regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage dropped from 22.6% to 2.2% and ‘extreme concern’ of contracting COVID-19 fell from 22.6% to 3.4% in the second survey. The proportion of respondents with a ‘low’ psychological well-being score improved from 38% to 27% between the two surveys. The resulting mean improvement in the SWEMWBS was 3.49 (95% confidence interval = 3.06–3.91, P < 0.001).
Conclusion: Both COVID-19 specific concerns and psychological well-being improved greatly in the second survey. Possible explanations are the fall in COVID-19 cases in the district, improvements in PPE supply and supportive measures communicated to doctors during this period.