BioScience Trends. 2021;15(2):129-131. (DOI: 10.5582/bst.2021.01099)

Burnout in nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic in China: New challenges for public health

Zhang L, Chai L, Zhao YH, Wang L, Sun WX, Lu LQ, Lu HZ, Zhang JL


During the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline nurses have faced extraordinary personal and professional challenges. These challenges have had mental health consequences, and concerning reports of burnout have emerged globally. We conducted a cross-sectional survey at a designated COVID-19 hospital in Shanghai at the peak of the pandemic, i.e. about 2 months after the onset of the outbreak from February to April 2020. Findings revealed burnout in 6.85% of nurses. Of 336 respondents, 87 (25.89%) had a high level of emotional exhaustion, 61 (18.15%) had a high level of depersonalization, and 100 (29.76%) had a low level of personal accomplishment. Burnout can be prevented by offering more support from families and supervisors, paying attention to health monitoring and personal protection, and creating a rational human resource allocation and shift management system. Specific training on infection control and self-protection, mental health guidance, and stress coping techniques must be implemented. As the current health crisis ultimately abates, moving the focus from mental health issues to public health issues, more attention and support at the national and organizational levels are needed to reduce occupational discrimination, nurse autonomy and status need to be promoted, and public health emergency teams need to be created. A positive and fair working environment is essential to effective healthcare delivery.

KEYWORDS: COVID-19, Chinese nurses, burnout, workload, Shanghai

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