Health uncertainty among healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Daniel L. Hall, Christina M. Luberto, Alexandros Markowitz, Helen Mizrach, Nevita George, Giselle K. Perez, Nicole R. DeTore, Gregory L. Fricchione, Daphne Holt, Louisa Sylvia, Elyse R. Park


Objective: Health uncertainty among healthcare workers has yet to be examined as a contributor to the psychological toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. We aimed to (1) characterize health uncertainty levels among healthcare workers in a large, U.S. hospital system during the COVID-19 pandemic and (2) examine associations between health uncertainty and psychological outcomes.
Methods: From March to June 2020, healthcare workers in a large, urban U.S. healthcare system were invited to complete an online questionnaire. Self-report measures assessed sociodemographic characteristics and job roles, health uncertainty, and emotional wellbeing variables (anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-compassion, and coping confidence). Health uncertainty (categorical and continuous scores) was compared across each variable using correlations and ANOVAs.
Results: Healthcare workers (N = 440) were on average 44.5 years of age, 88.9% female, and 84.5% non-Hispanic white. Over half (52%) endorsed experiencing health uncertainty “sometimes” to “all the time”. While unrelated to sociodemographic characteristics (ps > .05), health uncertainty was highest among pharmacists and technicians, with levels significantly higher than other roles including physicians (p < .05) and mental health and spiritual counselors (p < .05). Higher health uncertainty was associated with higher anxiety (p < .001), depression (p < .001), and loneliness (p < .001), higher self-compassion (p = .02), and lower coping confidence (p < .001).
Conclusions: Health uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic is common among healthcare workers, with higher levels related to poorer emotional wellbeing and less confidence in their coping abilities. Further research is needed to understand the relationships between healthcare workers’ health uncertainties and associated factors (i.e., job roles) and to identify whether health uncertainty may be a modifiable target for future interventions.

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Journal of Hospital Administration

ISSN 1927-6990(Print)   ISSN 1927-7008(Online)

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