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Loss & Burnout: Covid-19’s Impact on Emergency Physicians [Survey Results]

Loss & Burnout: Covid-19’s Impact on Emergency Physicians [Survey Results]

This past year has been a rough one for many, but perhaps none more so than the courageous physicians, nurses, EMS providers, and healthcare workers who have put their own safety on the line in order to help take care of COVID-19 patients.

They've been stretched to their limits, in many cases caring for more patients than they thought possible. Katherina Faustino, an ICU nurse from Henderson, Nevada, has doubled the number of patients she's responsible for. Nerissa Black, a nurse in Santa Clarita, California, went from caring for four patients to six, leaving her only ten minutes for each patient every hour. 

staff-md-upset-800x509As we approach the one-year mark since COVID-19 first entered the United States, US emergency medicine physicians are tired. They're experiencing burnout at alarming rates. And now they're sharing their experiences. 

On January 11th, 2021, Medscape released the results of their Emergency Medicine Physicians’ COVID-19 Experience Report. Though the results were collected between June and July of 2020, the report gives valuable insight into what EM physicians have experienced during this pandemic. More than 5,000 EM physicians responded.

Here are some of the most noteworthy stats.

Personal Health 

  • 54% of EM physicians have knowingly taken personal safety risks to treat a COVID emergency.
  • That said, 94% of EM physicians have not been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Loss, Loneliness, and Burnout 

  • 14% of EM physicians lost a colleague to COVID-19…and the median number they lost was two. Many physicians also experienced the tragic loss of beloved friends and family members. 
  • 79% of EM physicians have reported experiencing job-related burnout, and nearly three-quarters of that number have said that their burnout worsened during COVID. And emergency medicine physicians aren't alone. 73% of U.S. physicians across the board have said that they felt burned out, and two-thirds said that it worsened during COVID.
  • Before the pandemic, Medscape obtained data showing that most EM physicians were burned out because of the growing number of bureaucratic tasks required of them, such as charting and paperwork. 87% of EM physicians say their workplace has not made changes to reduce paperwork or administrative tasks to allow them to focus more on the pandemic.
  • 55% of EM physicians (and 46% of US physicians overall) have said that they are more lonely since the start of the pandemic.

Working Conditions 

  • staff-upset-700x10507 in 10 physicians who saw COVID-19 patients in person said they never or rarely treated them without the appropriate PPE. About 8% reported that they either often or always treated them without wearing PPE.
  • About one third of EM physicians who treated COVID patients said that at some point, their workplace went beyond its capacity. One quarter of all US physicians said their workplace encountered that situation.
  • About 42% of EM and US physicians in general said that their workplace has offered activities to help with grief and stress. 
  • Two-thirds of EM physicians saw their income decrease during the pandemic. About 70% saw their income decrease by 11%-50%.

COVID-19 Repercussions

  • 82% of EM physicians report that they're now seeing patients with non-COVID diseases who probably would’ve sought care earlier had it not been for COVID-19.
  • 87% of EM physicians did not have to make decisions about giving COVID-19 patients priority over other patients with life-threatening diseases.
  • Two thirds of EM physicians reported that COVID has affected their ability to be as good of a doctor as they would like.

Of those surveyed, 71% of respondents were male, and 26% were female. Respondents were evenly spread across an age range of 28 - 70+. 18% worked more than 36 hours per week, while 82% worked 36 or fewer hours each week. 


Today is National Women Physicians Day, in honor of the birth date of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in the United States. Learn more about National Women Physicians Day here.

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