Keywords: family practice, general practice, COVID-19, distress, wellbeing, burnout, supports, interventions
Emerging literature from all around the world is highlighting the huge toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on frontline health workers. However, prior the crisis, the wellbeing of this group was already of concern. Burnout is the most extreme form of this lack of wellbeing and its symptoms not only has a direct impact on the physician, but also on patients. Some studies have shown that, among physicians who report experiencing at least some signs of burnout, family medicine and emergency medicine physicians are among those at highest risk.
To describe the frequency of distress and wellbeing, measured by the Mayo Clinic Wellbeing index, among general practitioners and family physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic and to identify some of the key levers that could potentially mitigate the risk of distress.
Data were collected by means of an online self-reported questionnaire among GP practices. Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS software on Version 7 of the database which was the version consisting of the cleaned data of 33 countries available as of November 3rd, 2021.
Data from 3,711 was included. MCWI scores ranged from -2 to 9 with a mean of 2.7 and median of 3. Using a cut off of ≥2, 64.5% of respondents are considered at risk.
GPs with less experience, in smaller practices, and with more vulnerable patient populations have lower well-being scores and hence are at a higher risk of distress.
Collaboration from other practices and adequate governmental support are significant protective factors for distress.
While individual factors are important, it is necessary to address practice and system level organizational factors in order to enhance wellbeing and support primary care physicians. Research on the impact of such interventions is required.