Burnout: The Experience of Women In Medicine During COVID-19

The Doctor Weighs In
8 min readOct 30, 2020

By: Sharon Grossman, Ph.D.

Medically reviewed by Patricia Salber MD, MBA (@docweighsin)

Women in medicine are faced with heightened demands and lower than normal resources during the COVID pandemic. This can lead to anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, and burnout.

Stresses related to the pandemic are being added to the already stressful life of female physicians. This places them at risk of burnout. (Photo source: iStock)

Women in medicine are at risk of physician burnout due to COVID-19 due to many different factors, including:

  • The fear of catching the potentially lethal disease
  • Worry about having their health compromised now and into the future
  • Wondering if they will spread COVID to their loved ones
  • Worrying about how to manage their household and children in face of school closures and the need to stay away from their usual sources of support (parents, grandparents)

Further, they must continue to deal with all of the job-related stress that existed before the pandemic, including:

  • The pressure of seeing a high volume of patients
  • Managing the emotional reactions of their stressed-out patients
  • Charting and paperwork after each patient visit
  • Dealing with unrealistic expectations of patients and their families
  • Worrying about their patients long into the night
  • Working long shifts that often cut into their sleep and personal time
  • Lack of support
  • Facing gender discrimination [1] and sexual harassment on the job [2]

No wonder women in medicine are feeling overwhelmed and are at risk of burnout.

COVID-19 is driving big changes in our lives

Since the onset of COVID-19, people worldwide have had to learn to adapt to change quickly. The problem with this, however, is that our brain doesn’t like change. It likes to predict the future and when we face change, this means one thing: uncertainty.

The pandemic has turned the world as we knew it upside-down. Things we previously took for granted, like getting together with friends or going to work, became risky.

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