As the world grapples with the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic (hereafter COVID-19), healthcare systems and workers are placed under increasing strain.1 2 Teams are required to care for growing numbers of patients infected with a new and poorly understood disease. This work is often undertaken in challenging conditions and healthcare workers (HCWs) may consequently experience traumatic events.1 2 During previous disease outbreaks, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), HCWs experienced feelings of extreme vulnerability and uncertainty producing somatic and cognitive symptoms of anxiety.3 4 Following the control of the SARS outbreak, depression and avoidance were evident among HCWs, with the prevalence of psychiatric morbidity estimated at approximately 75%.3 4

During the COVID-19 pandemic, HCWs internationally have experienced increased depressive symptoms, anxiety, psychological distress and poor sleep quality.3 4 There is no determined definition for well-being, which can focus on multiple, different facets depending on the context and discipline. However, having identified that HCWs are negatively affected both physically (exposure to COVID-19, sleep loss and exhaustion) and psychologically (anxiety, depression and distress) by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to identify measures to support these aspects of HCWs’ well-being during this time. The occurrence of previous disease outbreaks such as SARS, Ebola and H1N1 led to expectations that previous interventions designed to support HCWs during a pandemic may exist within the academic literature.

However, it was expected that different healthcare professions would experience pandemics differently, have different needs, differing decision making, varying roles and responsibilities and therefore separate literature would exist for each group. Thus, the purpose of this scoping literature review was to identify the types of interventions previously utilised to support the well-being of doctors during pandemics existing within the literature.

Synthesising the literature in this way would provide a singular evidence base from which interventions can be judged as effective or ineffective in supporting the well-being of doctors. This would ensure that the most effective interventions are used and that they are targeted appropriately. For the interventions within the literature to be used in practice, they should be of high quality and theory-based.5

Therefore, our research question was ‘What interventions currently exist that support the well-being of doctors during pandemics?’.


Copyright © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

Cite as

Cairns, P., Aitken, G., Pope, L., Cecil, J., Cunningham, K., Ferguson, J., Gibson Smith, K., Gordon, L., Johnston, P., Laidlaw, A., Scanlan, G., Tooman, T., Wakeling, J. & Walker, K. 2021, 'Interventions for the well-being of healthcare workers during a pandemic or other crisis : scoping review', BMJ Open, 11(8), article no: 047498. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-047498

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Last updated: 02 November 2022
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