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Women in healthcare experiencing occupational stress and burnout during COVID-19: a rapid review
  1. Abi Sriharan1,
  2. Savithiri Ratnapalan2,3,
  3. Andrea C Tricco1,4,
  4. Doina Lupea5
  1. 1Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Division of Emergency Medicine, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Department of Paediatrics, The Temerty Faculty of Medicine, Toronto, ON, Canada
  4. 4Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, Unity Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  5. 5Ontario Medical Association, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Abi Sriharan; abi.sriharan{at}


Context COVID-19 has had an unprecedent impact on physicians, nurses and other health professionals around the world, and a serious healthcare burnout crisis is emerging as a result of this pandemic.

Objectives We aim to identify the causes of occupational stress and burnout in women in medicine, nursing and other health professions during the COVID-19 pandemic and interventions that can support female health professionals deal with this crisis through a rapid review.

Methods We searched MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO and ERIC from December 2019 to 30 September 2020. The review protocol was registered in PROSPERO and is available online. We selected all empirical studies that discussed stress and burnout in women healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results The literature search identified 6148 citations. A review of abstracts led to the retrieval of 721 full-text articles for assessment, of which 47 articles were included for review. Our findings show that concerns of safety (65%), staff and resource adequacy (43%), workload and compensation (37%) and job roles and security (41%) appeared as common triggers of stress in the literature.

Conclusions and relevance The current literature primarily focuses on self-focused initiatives such as wellness activities, coping strategies, reliance of family, friends and work colleagues to organisational-led initiatives such as access to psychological support and training. Very limited evidence exists about the organisational interventions such as work modification, financial security and systems improvement.

  • health services administration & management
  • health & safety
  • organisation of health services

Data availability statement

Data are available in a public, open access repository. Availability of data and materials: this review is registered with the Open Science Framework (

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:

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Data availability statement

Data are available in a public, open access repository. Availability of data and materials: this review is registered with the Open Science Framework (

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  • Contributors All authors conceptualised and designed the review. AS and SR reviewed titles, abstracts and full-text papers for eligibility. AS and SR extracted data, and all data extraction was verified by AS prepared the initial draft manuscript. SR, ACT and DL reviewed and edited the manuscript.

  • Funding This research was supported through a grant from the Canadian Institute for Health Research Operating Grant: Knowledge Synthesis: COVID-19 in Mental Health & Substance Use. ACT is funded by a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Knowledge Synthesis.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

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

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