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Work team identification associated with less stress and burnout among front-line emergency department staff amid the COVID-19 pandemic


Background The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed front-line healthcare workers to unprecedented risks and stressors threatening both physical and mental health. Prior work in the military has found that team identification, or the sense that one was a part of a team, can help reduce stress and prevent burnout during prolonged stress.

Methods We conducted repeated cross-sectional surveys embedded within emergency department workflow to understand whether team identification was associated with reduced reports of stress and burnout among front-line workers.

Results During the 10-week study which spanned the first wave of COVID-19, 327 of 431 (76%) front-line healthcare workers responded to at least one round of the survey. Higher team identification was associated with significantly less work stress (B=−0.60, 95% CI −0.84 to to -0.40, p<0.001) and burnout (B=−12.87, 95% CI −17.73 to -8.02, p<0.001) in cross-sectional analyses. Further evidence of the protective effect of team identification for work stress (B=−0.36, 95% CI −0.76 to 0.05, p=0.09) and burnout (B=−13.25, 95% CI −17.77 to -8.73, p<0.001) was also found in prospective longitudinal evidence.

Conclusion This work suggests work team identification is a key buffering factor against feelings of stress and burnout. Efforts to promote team identification may offer a promising way for leaders to support front-line healthcare workers’ well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. These results can inform ongoing COVID-19 operational and quality improvement initiatives.

  • mental health
  • medical leadership
  • multiprofessional
  • value

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