(HealthDay News) — Emotional exhaustion among health care workers (HCWs) worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online in JAMA Network Open.

J. Bryan Sexton, PhD, from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues conducted three waves of a survey (September 2019: 37,187 respondents; September 2020: 38,460 respondents; and September 2021: 31,475 respondents) of hospital-based HCWs in clinical and nonclinical (eg, administrative support) roles at 76 community hospitals within 2 large US health care systems.

The researchers found that the overall percentage of respondents reporting emotional exhaustion (percent EE) increased from 31.8 to 40.4%, with a proportional increase of 26.9%. From 2019 to 2020, physicians had a decrease in percent EE from 31.8 to 28.3%; however, there was an increase during the second year of the pandemic to 37.8%. Nurses had consistent increases in percent EE from 40.6% in 2019 to 46.5% in 2020 to 49.2% in 2021. A pattern similar to nurses, but at lower levels, was seen for all other roles.

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“Increases in emotional exhaustion may jeopardize care quality and necessitate additional support for the workforce,” the authors write.

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