Research carried out by University College Dublin’s (UCD) School of Medicine last month has shown that at least one in four hospital consultants are suffering the effects of burnout after one year of working throughout the pandemic. 

An internationally recognized measurement scale was used across a number of different hospitals, whereby 77% of consultants screened positive for burnout and two-thirds were classed as undergoing emotional exhaustion. The study further revealed that around one-quarter of hospitals senior medical staff are also facing the impact of “long-Covid”, after having contracted the virus. 

Associate Professor of Psychiatry at UCD and consultant liaison psychiatrist at the Mater Hospital, Anne Doherty, was a leading author of the report. She expressed that these results are “highly concerning”, highlighting that senior medical staff fear these findings, alongside insufficient resources and infrastructure, will disproportionately affect vulnerable patients. 

“The rate of burnout in this population is nearly double that found in a recent, pre-pandemic study of burnout among Irish senior doctors which reported burnout levels of 42 percent,” Professor Doherty stated. 

The report also showed that 84% of consultants believe that the pandemic has negatively impacted their workload, with 14% claiming that it has been severely impacted by the virus. Approximately half of participants described themselves as having become cynical and detached.

This problem extends to many other frontline workers, as a survey carried out last month revealed that 90% of nurses and midwives also described feelings of mental exhaustion. Over 4,000 student nurses and midwives have been working throughout the pandemic. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) told the Oireachtas Health Committee last month that their health has been put at risk, as well as having been left with a bad experience of the country’s health service.

In a recent appeal for compensation, the INMO President, Karen McGowan, said: “Despite great risks, our colleagues across nursing and midwifery have made an incredible contribution to the fight against COVID. It is a matter of simple justice that the debt of gratitude owed to frontline staff is recognised.”

Ella Waddington – Reporter