COVID-19 Information and Resources
COVID-19 Information and Resources
Free & Confidential Services for Employees, Physicians, Professional Staff & IHP Students
EAP News
March 3, 2021

Coping with Stress, Mental Health Issues and Burnout during COVID-19

Stacey J. Drubner, JD, LICSW, MPH

The last year has represented significant stress for health care workers in all settings. The cumulative effects from COVID represents fear, grief, isolation, changes in job routine and juggling work and home life.  These collective effects have triggered concerns about burnout. Stress is unavoidable but can become a real problem when it moves into burnout, depression and anxiety.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is not a diagnosis but rather a combination of symptoms, which includes:

  • Exhaustion
  • Cynicism and detachment
  • Loss of ability to empathize and connect
  • Feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment

The result is that individuals who are committed to caring for others are not able to do so as effectively and efficiently as possible, and they are unable to thrive personally and professionally.

Read more about Burnout from the Mass General Brigham EAP.

Current Status of the impact of COVID on the Wellbeing of Health Care Workers

Even before the pandemic, burnout impacted the health care workforce more than those in other industries.  If you are coping with emotional effects of COVID, you are not alone. COVID has put increased stress on many in health care.

A Summer 2020 Survey (hosted by Mental Health America and sponsored by the Johnson and Johnson Foundation) queried 1000+ health care workers who reported the following impacts:

  • Stress – 93%
  • Anxiety – 86%
  • Exhaustion and Burnout – 76%
  • Emotional Exhaustion – 82%
  • Overwhelmed – 70%


Help for Coping with Burnout, Stress and Mental Health Issues

In an interview in Lean Forward (Harvard Medical School), Dr. Haidar Al-Hakim, physician and burnout coach recommends the following to maintain wellbeing right now:

  • Remember your mission
  • Build your resilience
  • Focus on the present
  • Be realistic but stay positive
  • Practice self-care
  • Practice Gratitude

Spotlight: Shannon E. Scott-Vernaglia, MD

Coping with Depression as an MGH Physician

As mentioned above, health care workers have a higher prevalence of burnout. Physicians have a higher rate of suicide than the general population, yet the stigma they feel in asking for help can be even greater than that of their patients. Watch Dr. Scott-Vernaglia discuss her journey with depression and her message that “It’s OK not to be OK” in this MGH TEDX (Use your Mass General Brigham email address to log-in and watch the video).

Helpful Resources


For confidential assistance, contact the EAP at 866-724-4327 or request an appointment via our online form.

© 2024 Mass General Brigham EAP All rights reserved.