Qualitative study to explore UK medical students’ and junior doctors’ experiences of occupational stress and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

Tawse, J. and Demou, E. (2022) Qualitative study to explore UK medical students’ and junior doctors’ experiences of occupational stress and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. BMJ Open, 12(12), e065639. (doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-065639) (PMID:36523252) (PMCID:PMC9748513)

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Abstract

Objectives: This qualitative study aimed to explore the occupational experiences of medical students and junior doctors working during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the research sought to identify factors which mediated work stress, barriers to disclosing mental health problems and levels of support medical students and junior doctors received during the pandemic. Design: This study was a form of thematic analysis and adopted an inductive, ‘bottom-up’ approach, in which coded categories were derived from rich, descriptive data. Setting: Semistructured interviews were conducted online with UK-based medical students and junior doctors. Interviews were recorded, and analysis was done by coding salient quotes into themes. Participants: The final sample consisted of seven junior doctors and eight medical students, during the summer of 2021. Results: High levels of occupational stress were identified, which were exacerbated by COVID-19. A number of organisational difficulties associated with the pandemic compounded participants’ experiences of work stress. Participants recognised progress towards promoting and managing mental health within the profession but may still be reluctant to access support services. Barriers to disclosure included fear of stigmatisation, concerns about adding to colleagues’ workloads, lack of clarity about career implications and mistrust of occupational health services. Conclusions: While attitudes towards mental health have improved, medical students and junior doctors may avoid seeking help. Given the immense pressures faced by health services, it is imperative that extra measures are implemented to minimise work-stress, encourage help-seeking behaviours and promote supportive work cultures.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Demou, Dr Evangelia
Authors: Tawse, J., and Demou, E.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:BMJ Open
Publisher:BMJ Publishing Group
ISSN:2044-6055
ISSN (Online):2044-6055
Published Online:12 December 2022
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Authors
First Published:First published in BMJ Open 12: e061636
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
3048231Inequalities in healthAlastair LeylandMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_00022/2HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
3048231Inequalities in healthAlastair LeylandOffice of the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSO)SPHSU17HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit