Burnout jumped for maternal, neonatal clinicians early in pandemic, study finds

Self-reported burnout rates among clinicians in maternal-fetal and neonatal medicine increased significantly at the start of the pandemic, according to a small study published March 16 in the Journal of Perinatology. 

Researchers from Stanford (Calif.) University School of Medicine surveyed 288 neonatal and maternal healthcare workers nationwide in June 2020 who participated in a webinar about mental health during the pandemic. About one-third of respondents were in California, and nearly 59 percent were nurses. Researchers compared respondents' survey results to prior samples of more than 12,000 clinicians dating to 2011.

About 66 percent of neonatal and maternal healthcare professionals reported burnout symptoms, and 73 percent said they felt their colleagues were also showing more signs of burnout. Twelve percent of respondents reported a perceived rise in medical errors.

"The levels of burnout are about 2.5 times the rates we observed in pre-pandemic samples,” senior author Jochen Profit, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford, said in a news release. "Seeing a steep rise in burnout is concerning for everyone. This really is like the canary in the coal mine, telling us that there will be a wave of these problems coming and we need to get ready to help.”

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