University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Coping Strategies Utilized by Emergency Department Providers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Corlin Jewell, MD; Christopher Vandivort, MD; Brian Patterson, MD, MPH; Benjamin H. Schnapp, MD, Med

WMJ. 2021;120(4):262-267

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Introduction: COVID-19 has exposed health care workers to new stressors; emergency department providers are at risk of increased stress. It is unknown how coping strategies are utilized by this group during a pandemic.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey incorporating the Brief COPE inventory was deployed to residents, fellows, faculty, and physician assistants at a single US academic emergency department in the spring (April 2020 – May 2020) and winter (December 2020 – January 2021). Scores for 14 individual coping strategies, as well as approach (positive) and avoidant (negative) coping categories, were measured, and utilization of these coping strategies was compared with respect to the provider’s role, sex, the number of people living at home, presence of pets and/or children at home, and stress level.

Results: The response rate was 58/103 (56.3%) and 50/109 (45.9%) for the spring and winter distributions, respectively. In the spring, 70.6% of responders reported increased stress vs 66% in the winter. Overall utilization of coping strategies increased slightly between spring and winter for approach coping (32.22 to 32.64) and avoidant coping (20.95 to 21.73). Resident physicians utilized less approach coping and more avoidant coping when compared to faculty/fellows. Substance use overall had a relatively low score, which increased slightly between spring and winter distributions (2.93 to 3.04).

Conclusions: Approach coping was frequently utilized among ED providers during the COVID-19 pandemic study period. Resident physicians had higher utilization of avoidant coping strategies compared to faculty/fellows and could benefit from targeted wellness interventions during times of increased stress.

Author Affiliations: BerbeeWalsh Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin (Jewell, Patterson, Schnapp); Emergency Medicine Physician, Madison Emergency Physicians, Madison, Wisconsin (Vandivort).
Corresponding Author: Corlin M. Jewell, MD, BerbeeWalsh Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, 800 University Bay Dr, Madison, WI 53705; phone 765.480.0444; email; ORCID ID 0000-0002-3551-6918.
Funding/Support: None declared.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
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