Junior Doctors’ wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic: a view from across Europe
Authors: Dr Ellen McCourt, Dr Alvaro Cerame, Dr Shruti Sharma, Mr Mathias Korner
Junior Doctor’s wellbeing is inextricably linked to competence, productivity and longevity. Despite current junior doctors across Europe being the specialist workforce of the future, burnout (and subsequent absences from the workforce and even resignations) in Junior doctors has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic; for example in the 2021 survey from the UK General Medical Council 1/3 of trainees said they felt burnt out to a high or very high degree because of their work, compared to around 1/4 in previous years.
The European Junior Doctors Association (EJD) gathered data from member organisations 2020-2022 to establish the factors impacting wellbeing and burnout during the pandemic and to identify similarities and differences in the services available to address these.
Workplace safety, the provision of personal protective equipment, the protection of clinically vulnerable doctors and the extension of working hours beyond safety limits were all raised as contributing factors. Loss of control of working time, responsibilities, and environment were reported.
When asked about the provision of services to address burnout delegations reported services aimed at the individual. In 2020 50% of nations reported no services available. Although there were notable exceptions, a year into the pandemic 1⁄3 of delegations continued to report that there were no services at a national or local level.
Discussion and Conclusion
Burnout is a major concern in terms of both the professional and personal needs of doctors and the care they can provide to patients. Lack of resource, loss of safeguards and overwork are known to impact wellbeing; a lack of workplace autonomy is a driver of burnout.
This data demonstrates how the risk factors for burnout in junior doctors have been exacerbated and yet the solutions, remain focussed on the individual rather than institutions/governments. European junior doctors require a continental shift in the understanding of burnout and a commitment from medical leaders across Europe to solutions at an organisational and governmental level.