Introduction: Frontline healthcare workers (HCWs) exposed to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are at risk of psychological distress. This study evaluates the psychological impact of COVID-19 pandemic on HCWs in a national paediatric referral centre. Methods: This was a survey-based study that collected demographic, work environment and mental health data from paediatric HCWs in the emergency, intensive care and infectious disease units. Psychological impact was measured using the Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale-21. Multivariate regression analysis was performed to identify risk factors associated with psychological distress. Results: The survey achieved a response rate of 93.9% (430 of 458). Of the 430 respondents, symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress were reported in 168 (39.1%), 205 (47.7%) and 106 (24.7%), respectively. Depression was reported in the mild (47, 10.9%), moderate (76, 17.7%), severe (23, 5.3%) and extremely severe (22, 5.1%) categories. Anxiety (205, 47.7%) and stress (106, 24.7%) were reported in the mild category only. Collectively, regression analysis identified female sex, a perceived lack of choice in work scope/environment, lack of protection from COVID-19, lack of access to physical activities and rest, the need to perform additional tasks, and the experience of stigma from the community as risk factors for poor psychological outcome. Conclusion: A high prevalence of depression, anxiety and stress was reported among frontline paediatric HCWs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Personal psychoneuroimmunity and organisational prevention measures can be implemented to lessen psychiatric symptoms. At the national level, involving mental health professionals to plan and coordinate psychological intervention for the country should be considered.
Early studies done in China during this COVID-19 pandemic have shown considerable mental health impact on healthcare workers (HCWs), especially those working on the frontline. HCWs exposed directly to COVID-19 may be affected not only by fears of contracting the virus and spreading it to their loved ones, but also by work-related factors including the lack of manpower, increased working hours, inadequate personal protective equipment, difficult triage decisions and difficult isolation environments. An international collaborative survey conducted in Asia Pacific, which was independent of the COVID-19 disease burden within the country, demonstrated varying levels of mental health burden among HCWs.
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