Health Uncertainty among Healthcare Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Alexandros Markowitz, BS

Massachusetts General Hospital
Health Uncertainty among Healthcare Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Scientific Abstract

Background: Health uncertainty among healthcare workers has yet to be examined as a contributor to the psychological toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. We aimed to (1) characterize health uncertainty levels among healthcare workers in a large, U.S. hospital system during the COVID-19 pandemic and (2) examine associations between health uncertainty and psychological outcomes.

Methods: From March to June 2020, healthcare workers in a large, urban U.S. healthcare system were invited to complete an online questionnaire. Self-report measures assessed sociodemographic characteristics and job roles, health uncertainty, and emotional wellbeing variables (anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-compassion, and coping confidence). Health uncertainty (categorical and continuous scores) was compared across each variable using correlations and ANOVAs.

Results: Healthcare workers (N=440) were on average 44.5 years of age, 88.9% female, and 84.5% non-Hispanic white. Over half (52%) endorsed experiencing health uncertainty “sometimes” to “all the time”. While unrelated to sociodemographic characteristics (ps>.05), health uncertainty was highest among pharmacists and technicians, with levels significantly higher than other roles including physicians (p<.05) and mental health and spiritual counselors (p<.05). Higher health uncertainty was associated with higher anxiety (p<0.001), depression (p<0.001), and loneliness (p<0.001), higher self-compassion (p=0.02), and lower coping confidence (p<0.001).

Conclusions: Healthcare workers with higher health uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic (i.e., pharmacists, technicians) are more likely to have poorer emotional wellbeing and lower confidence in their coping abilities. These findings emphasize the need for interventions teaching healthcare workers skills for coping with health uncertainty and emotional difficulties.

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Alexandros Markowitz, BS, Raissa Li, Christina M. Luberto, PhD, Helen Mizrach, BS, Nevita George, BA, Giselle K. Perez, PhD, Nicole Detore, PhD, Gregory L. Fricchione, MD, Daphne Holt, MD, PhD, MPH, Louisa Sylvia, PhD, Elyse R. Park, PhD, MPH, Daniel Hall, PhD

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