COVID-19 and the Impact on Doctor Wellbeing and Training


Peer Review



How to Cite

Salem, J., Hawkins, L. ., Sundaram, A., Gates, J., Suleman, S., Mistry, M., Ong, Y.-E., Fernando, A., Snelgrove, H., & Chakravorty, I. (2021). COVID-19 and the Impact on Doctor Wellbeing and Training: A Mixed Methods Study. The Physician, 6(3), 1-8. (Original work published October 5, 2020)


Introduction - There is limited literature on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the wellbeing and training of junior doctors. The restructuring of rotas, redeployment of specialities and daily risk of COVID-19 exposure is likely to have had a significant impact on frontline doctors.

Aim - To understand the impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing and training of junior doctors at a tertiary, London Hospital.

Methods - A mixed-methods study was undertaken with an initial online survey three weeks after the peak of the COVID-19 surge; followed by a series of focus groups.

Results - Of 541 junior doctors, 161 responded to the questionnaire, and 10 participated in focus group sessions Over a third (34%; n=47) were concerned about the risk to personal health, 71% (n=102) had impaired sleep and many changed their lifestyles to adapt. Almost 40% felt the pandemic had an adverse impact on their careers, including their ability to complete training requirements, leading to an inevitable need to extend training. There was a reluctance to show or share any personal anxiety or vulnerability at work, hence participation in organised psychological support/ debrief sessions and online resources were considered unhelpful.

Conclusion - Employers need to recognise the impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of doctors and implement strategies to effectively support staff. The development of safe, timely, and confidential psychological support strategies may be of benefit to doctors. National training leads will need to closely supervise training changes appreciating both the variation in expectations and adaption required across different specialities and grades.

Reads/Downloads (21/01/2021) 1028

* Josef Salem & Lois Hawkins are joint first authors
Peer Review


McAlonan, G. Lee, A. Cheung, V. Tsang, K. Sham, P. Chua, S. Wong, J. Immediate and Sustained Psychological Impact of an Emerging Infectious Disease Outbreak on Health Care Workers. The CanJ Psychiat. 2007;52(4):241-247.

Willan, J. King, A. Jeffrey, K. Bienze, N. Challenges for NHS hospitals during covid-19 epidemic. BMJ. 2020;368:m1117

Shanfelt, T. Bradley, K, Wipf, J. Back A. Burnout and self-reported patient care in an internal medicine residency program. Ann Intern Med. 2002; 136(5):358-67.

Markwell, A. Wainer, Z. The health and wellbeing of junior doctors: insights from a national survey. Med J Australia. 2009; 191(8): 441– 4.

Shadbolt, N. Attitudes to healthcare and self-care among junior medical officers: a preliminary report. Med J Australia. 2002; 177 (S1).

British Medical Association. Caring for mental health of the medical workforce. Available from URL: [Accessed August 2020].

British Medical Association. COVID-19: analysing the impact of coronavirus on doctors. Available from URL: [Accessed August 2020]

Cao, J. Wei, J. Zhu, H. et al. A Study of Basic Needs and Psychological Wellbeing of Medical Workers in the Fever Clinic of a Tertiary General Hospital in Beijing during the COVID-19 Outbreak. Psychother Psychosom. 2020;89(4):252-254.

Amerio,A. Bianchi, D, Santi, F. et al. COVID-19 pandemic impact on mental health: a web-based cross-sectional survey on a sample of Italian general practitioners. Acta Biomed. 2020;91(2) 83-88.

Department of Health and Social Care. Face masks and coverings to be worn by all NHS hospital staff and visitors. Available from URL: [Accessed July 2020].

Department of Health and Social Care. PM announces easing of lockdown restrictions. Available from URL: -lockdown-restrictions-23-june-2020. [Accessed July 2020]

SurveyMonkey. The World’s Most Popular Free Online Survey Tool. Available from URL: [Accessed July 2020].

Microsoft Corporation. Microsoft Excel. Available from URL: [Accessed July 2020]

Microsoft Corporation. Microsoft Teams. Available from URL: [Accessed July 2020]

Wang, W. Tang, J. Wei, F. Updated understanding of the outbreak of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019‐nCoV) in Wuhan, China. J. Med. Virol. 2020;92(4):441-7.

Brooks, S. Webster, R. Smith, L. Woodland, L. et al. The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. Lancet. 2020; 395: 912–20.

Herron J, Hay-David A, Gilliam A, Brennan P. Personal protective equipment and COVID 19-a risk to healthcare staff?. Brit J Oral Max Surg. 2020;58(5):500-2.

Lai, J. Ma, S. Wang, Y. Factors associated with mental health outcomes among health care workers exposed to coronavirus disease 2019. JAMA netw open. 2020;3(3):e203976.

Wu, P. Styra, R. Gold, W. Mitigating the psychological effects of COVID-19 on health care workers. Can Med Assoc J. 2020;192(17):E459-60.

Cohen, D. Winstanley, S. Greene, G. Understanding doctors’ attitudes towards self-disclosure of mental ill health. Occup Med. 2016;66(5):383-389.

Wu, A. Connors, C. Everly, G. COVID-19: peer support and crisis communication strategies to promote institutional resilience. Ann Intern Med. 2020;172(12):822-823.

Tracy, D. Tarn, M. Eldridge, R .et al. What should be done to support the mental health of healthcare staff treating COVID-19 patients? Br J Psych. 2020;1-3.doi:10.1192/bjp.2020.109

Federani, R. Monks, M. Peprah D .et al. Improving wellbeing among UK doctors redeployed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Future Healthc J. 2020; 7.3 DOI:10.7861/fhj.2020-0111

Daodu, O. Panda, N. Lopushinsky, S. Varghese, T. Brindle, M. COVID-19–considerations and implications for surgical learners. Ann Surg. 2020;1;272(1):e22-3.

Health Education England. NHS Staff and Learners’ Mental Wellbeing Commission. Available from URL: [Accessed July 2020]

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2020 Array