Founded in 1972 by ACEP, the mission of the Emergency Medicine Foundation (EMF) is to fund science that advances the careers of emergency medicine researchers, provides the basis for effective health policy, and ultimately improves patient care. Every year, EMF awards grants to investigators conducting emergency medicine research at various stages of their career, from medical students to midcareer physicians.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 40 – No 09 – September 2021
For its 2020–2021 grant cycle, EMF awarded nearly $1 million in grants. One of its recipients was Janice Blanchard, MD, PhD, who received $38,777 for her project titled “An Evaluation of Stressors Related to COVID-19 in Emergency Medicine Physicians.” We recently spoke with Dr. Blanchard, professor of emergency medicine and chief of the health policy section at the George Washington School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Washington, DC, about her research and how she hopes it’ll change the field.
Why did you choose this topic?
In April and May of 2020, I felt a lot of stress in the workplace. I also saw the stress in my colleagues, and I really worried about our long-term mental health. It made me wonder what was going on across the country. Is this something that we’re all experiencing? I realized that we needed to better understand the stress to help generate solutions.
What are the goals of your research?
The purpose is to try to design interventions to address the stress in the future. Long term, we really want to understand what changes at the organizational level and individual level can alleviate workplace stress in the future. Even before the pandemic, emergency medicine clinicians and emergency medicine physicians in particular had really high levels of burnout. This isn’t going away, we’re still having those same issues that will increase our levels of burnout, and we may have more pandemics in the future. It’s really important to understand how to decrease that burnout and anxiety and how to do that by alleviating some of the stress that emergency medicine clinicians face.
The stress can be multifold. It can be due to organizational factors, it can be due to lack of peer support, and we really need to understand how to address each of those issues better. When there are higher levels of anxiety, depression, and particularly burnout, clinician work productivity decreases. When your clinicians aren’t happy and aren’t effective, that translates to poor patient care.
Could you share some details about your project?
We have 10 sites, including Los Angeles, Dallas, New Orleans, New York City, and Washington, D.C., which makes our study unique. We have included emergency medicine physicians, emergency medicine nurses, and EMS workers. We are now analyzing data for a total of 32 qualitative interviews and 701 completed surveys. We have a really wonderful, representative group of people, which I think is a valuable aspect of our study.
What is unique about your data?
We had two parts. One part was interviews with emergency medicine physicians, emergency medicine nurses, and EMS workers at 10 locations across the country. These interviews were very meaningful. We got really personal, enriched stories from them to better understand how COVID-19 has impacted their stress and mental health outcomes.