Article Text

Original research
Psychological and occupational impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on UK surgeons: a qualitative investigation
  1. Tmam Abdulaziz Al-Ghunaim1,
  2. Judith Johnson1,
  3. Chandra Shekhar Biyani2,
  4. Daryl O’Connor1
  1. 1School of Psychology, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  2. 2Department of Urology, St James's University Hospital Hepatobiliary, Leeds, UK
  1. Correspondence to Tmam Abdulaziz Al-Ghunaim; t.alghunaim{at}leeds.ac.uk

Abstract

Background The COVID-19 pandemic represents the greatest biopsychosocial emergency the world has faced for a century. The pandemic has changed how individuals live and work, and in particular, frontline healthcare professionals have been exposed to alarming levels of stress.

Objective The aim of this study was to understand the professional and personal effects of COVID-19 pandemic on surgeons working in the UK National Health Service (NHS).

Setting Surgical departments in the NHS.

Design Between May and July 2020, as part of an ongoing study, we asked surgeons two open-ended questions: ‘What challenges are the COVID-19 crisis currently presenting to you in your work and home life?’ and ‘How is this stress affecting you personally?’ Thematic analysis was used for the qualitative data. Responses to the second question were also categorised into four groups reflecting valence: positive, neutral, mildly negative and strongly negative.

Results A total of 141 surgeons responded to the survey and the results indicated that 85.8% reported that they were generally negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, of which 7.8% were strongly affected in a negative way. Qualitative thematic analysis identified four key themes from responses relating to the impact of the pandemic: (1) changing and challenging work environment as a result of COVID-19; (2) challenges to professional life and development; (3) management of change and loss in the respondents’ personal lives; (4) emotional and psychological impacts.

Conclusion The results highlighted the substantial emotional and psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on surgeons’ mental health, particularly in relation to fear and anxiety, loss of motivation, low mood, stress and burnout. There is an urgent need for workplace support and mental health interventions to help surgeons cope with the difficulties they face during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

  • COVID-19
  • surgery
  • mental health
  • anxiety disorders

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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Footnotes

  • Twitter @ag_Tmam

  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published. Affiliation for Chandra Shekhar Biyani has been corrected.

  • Contributors TAAG, JJ, CSB and DOC were responsible for designing and implementing the research, analysing the results and the writing of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.

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