Understanding and improving the mental health and wellbeing of doctors and medical students during the COVID-19 pandemic

Flinders University 2021

Researchers: Dr Dan Fassnacht, Kathina Ali

This study aimed to comprehend and enhance the mental health and wellbeing of healthcare workers, specifically doctors and medical students, during the COVID-19 pandemic. It included three main goals: investigating mental health during the pandemic, examining attitudes toward seeking help, and exploring preferences for wellbeing interventions. The project was expanded to include all healthcare workers and to provide interventions. The researchers utilised data from two phases: the Wellbeing Over Time Longitudinal study and the Be Well Plan program. The former showed that medical professionals generally had better mental well-being, resilience, and lower depression and anxiety symptoms than other healthcare workers. The Be Well Plan, an evidence-based mental health program, resulted in significant improvements for those who participated.

The study reveals that healthcare workers are experiencing moderate levels of wellbeing and mild mental health symptoms during the “COVID-normal” phase. Medical professionals generally had better mental wellbeing and resilience than other groups, but non-clinical healthcare workers reported poorer outcomes. Help-seeking was relatively high, with over three-quarters of participants seeking professional help. The Be Well Plan intervention, though having low uptake, led to significant improvements for participants. This study emphasised the necessity of supporting healthcare workers’ mental health and provides insights into effective interventions.