Abstract: Background: The rapid spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has created considerable strain on the physical and mental health of healthcare workers around the world. The effects have been acute for physician trainees—a unique group functioning simultaneously as learners and care providers with limited autonomy. Objective: To investigate the longitudinal effects of physician trainee exposure to patients being tested for COVID-19 on stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout using three surveys conducted during the early phase of the pandemic. Design: Longitudinal survey study. Participants: All physician trainees (N = 1375) at an academic medical center. Main Measure: Assess the relationship between repeated exposure to patients being tested for COVID-19 and stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout. Key Results: Three hundred eighty-nine trainees completed the baseline survey (28.3%). Of these, 191 and 136 completed the ensuing surveys. Mean stress, anxiety, and burnout decreased by 21% (95% confidence interval (CI): − 28 to − 12%; P < 0.001), 25% (95% CI: − 36 to − 11%; P < 0.001), and 13% (95% CI: − 18 to − 7%; P < 0.001), respectively, per survey. However, for each survey time point, there was mean increase in stress, anxiety, and burnout per additional exposure: stress [24% (95% CI: + 12 to + 38%; P < 0.001)], anxiety [22% (95% CI: + 2 to + 46%; P = 0.026)], and burnout [18% (95% CI: + 10 to + 28%; P < 0.001)]. For depression, the association between exposure was strongest for the third survey, where mean depression scores increased by 33% per additional exposure (95% CI: + 18 to + 50%; P < 0.001). Conclusions: Training programs should adapt to address the detrimental effects of the “pileup” of distress associated with persistent exposure through adaptive programs that allow flexibility for time off and recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1204-1210
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • anxiety
  • burnout
  • depression
  • longitudinal effects
  • mental health
  • physician trainees
  • stress


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