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Physical and psychological health of medical students involved in the coronavirus disease 2019 response in Switzerland


Aebischer, Oriane; Weilenmann, Sonja; Gachoud, David; Man, Marie; Spiller, Tobias Raphael (2020). Physical and psychological health of medical students involved in the coronavirus disease 2019 response in Switzerland. Swiss Medical Weekly, 150:w20418.

Abstract

AIMS

Involvement of medical students in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response remains a matter of debate. The main argument against involvement relates to potential physical and psychological health risks. Hence, we aimed to compare the physical and psychological health of Swiss medical students involved in the COVID-19 response with their non-involved peers. Among those involved, we also compared frontline (working in a dedicated COVID-19 unit) and non-frontline students. In addition, we compared frontline medical students with frontline residents.

METHODS

We conducted a cross-sectional anonymous online study in Switzerland between 9 and 14 May 2020. Recruitment was through hospital, faculty and student societies mailing lists using a snowball technique. Exposure to COVID-19 patients, personal protective equipment (PPE) access, support and information by employer, as well as COVID-19 symptoms and diagnosis were collected with a self-reported questionnaire. Anxiety and depression were assessed using the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). Burnout was assessed using two single items derived from the Maslach Burnout Inventory.

RESULTS

550 medical students (66.7% women, median age 23 years) and 227 residents (70.5% women, median age 30 years) were included in the analyses. Approximately half of the medical students were involved in the COVID-19 response and 30% were frontline workers. Of the residents, 61.7% were frontline workers. Both medical students and residents reported high access to PPE, support and information by employer. Students involved in the COVID-19 response reported a similar proportion of COVID-19 symptoms or confirmed diagnoses (p = 0.81), but lower levels of anxiety (p <0.001), depression (p <0.001) and burnout (p <0.001 for depersonalisation item), compared with their non-involved peers. Health outcomes of frontline students did not differ significantly compared with their non-frontline peers. Frontline students had lower levels of burnout than frontline residents (p <0.01 for emotional exhaustion item); the remaining health outcomes did not significantly differ.

Abstract

AIMS

Involvement of medical students in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response remains a matter of debate. The main argument against involvement relates to potential physical and psychological health risks. Hence, we aimed to compare the physical and psychological health of Swiss medical students involved in the COVID-19 response with their non-involved peers. Among those involved, we also compared frontline (working in a dedicated COVID-19 unit) and non-frontline students. In addition, we compared frontline medical students with frontline residents.

METHODS

We conducted a cross-sectional anonymous online study in Switzerland between 9 and 14 May 2020. Recruitment was through hospital, faculty and student societies mailing lists using a snowball technique. Exposure to COVID-19 patients, personal protective equipment (PPE) access, support and information by employer, as well as COVID-19 symptoms and diagnosis were collected with a self-reported questionnaire. Anxiety and depression were assessed using the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). Burnout was assessed using two single items derived from the Maslach Burnout Inventory.

RESULTS

550 medical students (66.7% women, median age 23 years) and 227 residents (70.5% women, median age 30 years) were included in the analyses. Approximately half of the medical students were involved in the COVID-19 response and 30% were frontline workers. Of the residents, 61.7% were frontline workers. Both medical students and residents reported high access to PPE, support and information by employer. Students involved in the COVID-19 response reported a similar proportion of COVID-19 symptoms or confirmed diagnoses (p = 0.81), but lower levels of anxiety (p <0.001), depression (p <0.001) and burnout (p <0.001 for depersonalisation item), compared with their non-involved peers. Health outcomes of frontline students did not differ significantly compared with their non-frontline peers. Frontline students had lower levels of burnout than frontline residents (p <0.01 for emotional exhaustion item); the remaining health outcomes did not significantly differ.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Klinik für Konsiliarpsychiatrie und Psychosomatik
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > General Medicine
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Medicine
Language:English
Date:11 December 2020
Deposited On:03 Feb 2021 11:59
Last Modified:04 Feb 2021 21:00
Publisher:EMH Swiss Medical Publishers
ISSN:0036-7672
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.4414/smw.2020.20418
PubMed ID:33306812

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