Physician exhaustion and work engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic: A longitudinal survey into the role of resources and support interventions

Lara Solms*, Annelies E.M. van Vianen, Improve Research Network, Jessie Koen, Kees Jan Kan, Matthijs de Hoog, Anne P.J. de Pagter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Background Physicians increasingly show symptoms of burnout due to the high job demands they face, posing a risk for the quality and safety of care. Job and personal resources as well as support interventions may function as protective factors when demands are high, specifically in times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the Job Demands-Resources theory, this longitudinal study investigated how monthly fluctuations in job demands and job and personal resources relate to exhaustion and work engagement and how support interventions are associated with these outcomes over time. Methods A longitudinal survey consisting of eight monthly measures in the period 2020–2021, completed by medical specialists and residents in the Netherlands. We used validated questionnaires to assess job demands (i.e., workload), job resources (e.g., job control), personal resources (e.g., psychological capital), emotional exhaustion, and work engagement. Additionally, we measured the use of specific support interventions (e.g., professional support). Multilevel modeling and longitudinal growth curve modeling were used to analyze the data. Results 378 medical specialists and residents were included in the analysis (response rate: 79.08%). Workload was associated with exhaustion (γ = .383, p < .001). All job resources, as well as the personal resources psychological capital and self-judgement were associated with work engagement (γs ranging from -.093 to .345, all ps < .05). Job control and psychological capital attenuated the workload-exhaustion relationship while positive feedback and peer support strengthened it (all ps < .05). The use of professional support interventions (from a mental health expert or coach) was related to higher work engagement (estimate = .168, p = .032) over time. Participation in organized supportive group meetings was associated with higher exhaustion over time (estimate = .274, p = .006). Conclusions Job and personal resources can safeguard work engagement and mitigate the risk of emotional exhaustion. Professional support programs are associated with higher work engagement over time, whereas organized group support meetings are associated with higher exhaustion. Our results stress the importance of professional individual-level interventions to counteract a loss of work engagement in times of crisis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0277489
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2 February
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023

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Publisher Copyright: Copyright: © 2023 Solms et al.


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