Study: Doctors Experienced High Stress, Changed Behavior During Pandemic’s Early Days

By , KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

If you think the COVID-19 pandemic is stressing you out, try working in an emergency room.

A new study from the University of California, San Francisco finds stress levels among ER doctors spiked during the early days of the health crisis.

The ER is already a stressful place under normal conditions - but in late March and early April when COVID-19 cases first started spiking, so did anxiety levels for frontline health care workers. According to the survey, stress for ER doctors ranged from moderate to severe, sometimes depending upon gender.

"Women healthcare providers had higher anxiety levels arising from their work in the pandemic as compared to men," said Robert Rodriguez, Professor of Emergency Medicine at UCSF.

The survey also found that 90% of physicians changed their behavior around family, decreasing signs of affection like hugging and kissing their partners. Rodriguez believes many physicians took their stress home with them worried about exposing family to the virus.

"When you’re seeing a patient in the emergency department who may have COVID and you can’t get the test results back in a few days, in a lot of cases, that’s not really very helpful," Rodriguez added.

He said while availability of PPE has improved dramatically, rapid coronavirus testing continues to be a problem.

UCSF plans to do a second survey to find out if stress levels among ER doctors have improved since April.

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