Mental health providers with growing caseloads could very well experience compassion fatigue.
It’s no question that the coronavirus has taken a toll on the mental health of many. With unforeseen twists and turns, variants and a multitude reported cases, the uncertainty and longevity of COVID can wear a person down. That’s why it’s more important than ever before for providers to be on their toes and step up to address the crisis. Therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists have a tough job to as they witness their caseloads growing significantly. With this in mind, many have wondered how mental health providers are getting along and if they’ll eventually reach breaking point. A new review has proven burnout could very well happen.
A meta-analysis of 36 studies and more than 5000 psychiatrists across Europe and the United States, Australia, New Zealand, India, Turkey, and Thailand, has concluded that 25% of respondents met the clinical criteria for burnout (or compassion fatigue), a phenomenon in which a practitioner becomes so overburdened that they are considered ‘impaired’ (incapable of offering quality service to their patients). The team used a scale called the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) to measure the likelihood of burnout and discovered that a large number qualified. Their findings were published online in an April edition of the Journal of Affective Disorders.
“Our review showed that regardless of the identification method of burnout, its prevalence among psychiatrists is high and ranges from 25% to 50%,” explained lead author Kirill Bykov, MD, a PhD candidate at the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University), Moscow, Russian Federation. Bykov added that there was a “high heterogeneity of studies in terms of statistics, screening methods, burnout definitions, and cutoff points in the included studies, which necessitates the unification of future research methodology, but not to the detriment of the development of the theoretical background.”
It’s important to note that burnout is a serious condition among healthcare workers and seems to have gotten substantially worse for mental health providers since the onset of the pandemic. Prior to the spread of the coronavirus, studies were centered around physicians and other clinicians, but mental health was not prioritized. “Although burnout is a serious and prevalent problem among healthcare workers, little research has focused on burnout in mental health workers compared with other professionals,” the investigators note in their paper.
This took a sudden and drastic shift, however, when these workers stole the spotlight in the battle against the aftereffects of the virus. Many individuals have not been able to cope with the uncertainty, anxiety, depression, trauma, and grief COVID has brought. They’ve turned to professionals to help them handle their feelings. Some have returned to their previous providers for the first time in a long while. Others are seeking care for the first time.
Bykov noted the current review was “investigator-initiated,” stating, “Studying the works devoted to the burnout of psychiatrists, I drew attention to the varying prevalence rates of this phenomenon among them. This prompted me to conduct a systematic review of the literature and summarize the available data.” The current study, he added, “does not contain restrictions regarding the place of research, publication language, covered burnout concepts, definitions, and screening instruments. Thus, its results will be helpful for practitioners and scientists around the world.”