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“There Are Many Cases That You Carry with You That Leave Scars”: Burnout and Secondary Trauma among Pediatric Residents in Routine and Covid Times

DOI: 10.4236/ojmp.2023.121002, PP. 17-54

Keywords: Burnout, Covid-19, Pediatric Residents, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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The current research joins previous studies in examining post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and burnout among healthcare workers. The research focuses on the experiences of pediatric residents working in an emergency department both in normal times and during the Covid pandemic. Research conducted prior to and during the Covid pandemic outbreak shows negative psychological effects among healthcare workers. Most of that research was conducted within the positivistic-quantitative paradigm. The current study is qualitative and focuses on pediatric residents who provide medical services to a unique population in a peripheral region of Israel, namely the Bedouin-Arab population. The research questions are the following: What characterizes pediatric residents’ work, in general and during the pandemic? Do they show signs of burnout and secondary trauma? How do they perceive their work with the Bedouin-Arab population, especially during the pandemic? The study, conducted within the phenomenological genre, included 14 pediatric residents in a large hospital in Israel’s periphery. Semi-structured clinical interviews were employed, in addition to questionnaires that examined PTSD and burnout to enhance the reliability of the findings. The results show that all residents reported stressful incidents in which patients’ physical integrity was threatened. The residents described the special nature of the medical cases they treated in routine times and during the pandemic outbreak, which stems mostly from the specific characteristics the population of Israel’s periphery. While at the early stages of the pandemic, the residents experienced reduced work pressure, they reported substantial difficulties later in the crisis, which intensified their sense of physical and emotional stress. Most residents reported feeling inadequately prepared for dealing with traumatic events. According to the results, most residents displayed secondary trauma (12 participants in interviews and 11 in questionnaires), which can be classified into categories based on the DSM-5. In the interviews, all 14 participants reported various signs of burnout. The questionnaires indicated burnout symptoms among 10 participants. Giving a voice to pediatric residents, the study highlights the complexity of their routine work as well as their role during the Covid crisis. Based on the findings, recommendations have been made for policymakers. The study highlights the importance of raising awareness to the implications of the residents’ rough work conditions in routine and emergency times and to the need


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