While most people won’t be surprised to hear that elevated stress levels brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and staffing shortages have taken a toll on healthcare workers, they may be surprised to hear we actually don’t have a full understanding of its impact.
A new study seeks to find answers about the psychological and biological impact of burnout in healthcare workers.
The Royal is allocating part of an anonymous $1.5 million donation received through the Ottawa Community Foundation to a study investigating the psychological and biological toll of burnout and chronic stress in a sample of 100 licensed healthcare workers recruited from Ottawa-area hospitals.
“This research is essential in addressing the escalating rates of burnout in our dedicated health care workers,” says Dr. Florence Dzierszinski, president of the University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research (IMHR) at The Royal and vice-president of research.
“Research is care. By uncovering unique biological markers and fostering a better understanding of chronic stress, we pave the way for targeted interventions and more comprehensive workplace programs to safeguard well-being.”
This study combines the collection of clinical and biological data including neuroimaging at The Royal’s Brain Imaging Centre. The team, which includes co-investigators Dr. Robyn McQuaid, Dr. Zachary Kaminsky, and Dr. Jeanne Talbot, is also examining links between burnout, stress, mental health service use, moral distress, and factors associated with resilience and coping.
It’s a timely topic, says Dr. Jennifer Phillips, the study’s principal investigator and interim scientific director of the University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research at The Royal.
“We know that the rates of burnout are high in healthcare workers,” says Phillips. “Among nurses, physicians and medical trainees, for example, the rates of burnout have increased – now they're higher than they were before the pandemic started.”