The well-being of physicians during the COVID-pandemic in a Belgian tertiary hospital


COVID-19, mental well-being, healthcare workers, anaesthesiologists

Published online: Jun 23 2022

Korthoudt C., MD 1*, Kegels N. 1*, MD, Domen A., MD 2, Moorkens G., MD-PhD 3, Saldien V., MD-PhD 4

* First two authors are equally first writers.

1 Department of anaesthesiology and reanimation, Antwerp University Hospital (UZA), 2650 Edegem, Belgium;
2 Center for Oncological Research (CORE), Integrated Personalized and Precision Oncology Network (IPPON), University of Antwerp, 2610 Antwerp, Belgium;
3 Clinical director of the department of internal medicine, Head of residency program internal medicine at the University of Antwerp Antwerp University Hospital (UZA), 2650 Edegem, Belgium;
4 Head of the department of anaesthesiology and reanimation, Docent in anaesthesiology and reanimation at the University of Antwerp, Antwerp University Hospital (UZA), 2650 Edegem, Belgium.


Background: COVID-19 has become the largest medical challenge worldwide, affecting the physical and mental well-being of physicians. The aim of this study was to explore the well-being of physicians during the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in a Belgian tertiary hospital, with special attention to anaesthesiologists. They were confronted with overcrowded intensive care units, were mentally challenged during several months by an overwhelming workload.

Methods: All physicians of the Antwerp University Hospital (UZA) were invited to participate through an online anonymous questionnaire to objectively evaluate their well-being during the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in Belgium. Mental well-being was evaluated by the validated Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS) summing 14 equally weighted questions (scoring range 1 to 5) about mental well-being. Demographic data such as age, gender, function, COVID exposure was collected.

Results: Ninety physicians, 42 residents and 48 staff members, completed the questionnaire with an average WEMWBS of 50.6±8.0. Participating residents were deployed more on COVID-19 departments compared to participating staff members (p=0.02) and reported a higher workload (p=0.001). Residents scored significantly lower on the WEMBWS compared to staff members (48.1±8.2 vs. 52.8±7.3, p=0.01). Also, 15 female anaesthesiologists scored significantly lower in the WEMWBS compared to their 12 male colleagues (p=0.03).

Conclusion: During the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in Belgium, residents reported a significantly higher workload due to COVID-19 and reported a significantly lower well-being compared to staff members.