Addressing Burnout Among Clinical Research Staff

In March 2019, we published an article addressing the threat of burnout among clinical research coordinators. A year later, research centers were scrambling to close amid lockdowns. Clinical trials were paused as resources shifted to caring for the surge of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals. Health care providers, including clinical research professionals, were thrust into the front lines of fighting a global pandemic.

Experts believe the pandemic has exacerbated a pre-existing burnout crisis. With uncertainty about job security, and myriad issues relative to working remotely, or returning to offices and workplace safety, job stress is reaching a fever pitch. Issues of mental health in the workplace have gained increased media attention over the last year. Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced they were earmarking $103 million from the pandemic relief fund to address burnout among health care workers.

The journal Health Policy published a report earlier this year that identified burnout as the driving factor behind nurses quitting their jobs, even before the pandemic. According to the study, over a third of them said they left because of burnout, citing stressful work environments and inadequate staffing. Among healthcare works, a variety of factors associated with COVID-19 correlated with significant mental health impacts.

Burnout may have implications for quality of care and patient safety. Several tools, developed specifically for those who work in health care, can help individuals, managers and teams navigate the challenges of working in unpredictable and stressful environments. We offer this collection of resources for our community.

Stanford WellMD
Stanford Medicine WellMD & WellPhD Center works to advance the well-being of physicians and biomedical scientists.

Reenergizing the Workforce: How Leaders Can Overcome Pandemic Fatigue
A paper published by McKinsey & Company

How to Cope with Stress and Build Resilience
A guide for health care providers by the CDC.

Signs and Symptoms of Burnout
A guide by the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health care.

Managing Fatigue in Times of Crisis
By the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Strategies to Support Health and Well-Being of Clinicians
A toolkit for clinicians and clinical leaders by the National Academy of Medicine

How to Measure Burnout Ethically and Accurately
An article by the American Association of Physician Leadership that outlines the Maslach Burnout Inventory, a scientifically developed measure of burnout used widely in research studies around the world.

Pandemic Burnout in Academia
This article in the journal Nature exams how the pandemic is taking its toll on scientists.