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Psychological impact of COVID-19 on healthcare leaders: a cross-sectional survey in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
  1. Enrico Scarpis1,
  2. Giulia Bravo1,
  3. Roberto Cocconi2,
  4. Laura Brunelli1,2
  1. 1 Dipartimento di Area Medica, Università degli Studi di Udine, Udine, Italy
  2. 2 Accreditamento e Gestione del Rischio Clinico, Azienda Sanitaria Universitaria Friuli Centrale, Udine, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Dr Enrico Scarpis, Dipartimento di Area Medica, Università degli Studi di Udine, Udine, Italy; scarpis.enrico{at}


Introduction Although several studies highlighted the psychological burden of 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, no data are available regarding professionals leading healthcare organisations. This study aims to assess the psychological impact of COVID-19 on healthcare leaders (HeLs), along with the leadership skills and coping strategies needed for successful leadership.

Methods A cross-sectional survey was conducted in Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Italy) between October and November 2020. We assessed the presence of depressive symptoms (DS), anxiety symptoms (AS), perceived stress (PS) and insomnia using internationally validated tools. Coping strategies and skills needed to overcome the crisis were examined, along with the most challenging phases.

Results A total of 48 HeLs participated. The prevalence of DS and AS was 14.6% and 12.5%, respectively. Moderate and severe insomnia was found in 12.5% and 6.3% of them, respectively. Leaders showed moderate (45.8%) and high 4,2%) level of PS. The two most challenging phases were recognised in early recognition (45.2%) and peak phase (31.0%). Concerning healthcare leaders’ skills required to manage with pandemic, the most reported were communication (35.1%) and decision-making (25.5%).

Conclusion The high level of PS, insomnia, DS and AS experienced by healthcare leaders shows the COVID-19 pandemic’s psychological impact. The two most challenging phases identified enhances the importance of public health surveillance and monitoring systems, and communication appeared a critical success skill for healthcare leaders. Given the key role these professional play in addressing the current crisis in healthcare organisations, their mental health and well-being deserve greater attention.

  • clinical leadership
  • leadership assessment
  • COVID-19
  • mental health

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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  • Contributors ES and LB designed the study and collected data; GB performed the analyses; LB and ES drafted the manuscript; RC revised intellectual contents; all authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript. LB is the author acting as guarantor.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.