Nicole Gostic, Daniel Groepper, Megan Trinkle-Tucker, Malynnda Johnson, Kristin B. Niendorf
For healthcare workers, recognized professional challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic include changes to service delivery models, increased burnout, furlough, and loss of income. The main goal of this study was to more clearly define the impact on mental health and quality of life of genetic counselors during the COVID-19 pandemic in the contexts of their personal, professional, and social lives. Eligible genetic counselors (GCs) (n = 283) responded to an online survey that incorporated validated instruments: Patient Health Questionnaire, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Professional Quality of Life, and the In Charge Financial Distress/Financial Well-Being Scale. Additionally, original questions were developed from previous qualitative research on COVID-19 challenges for healthcare workers. Results showed 62% of respondents felt their mental health was impacted for the worse, 45% found it more difficult to achieve work/life balance, 16.8% scored within moderate-to-severe depression severity, 19.2% scored within moderate-to-severe anxiety, 26.3% reported high burnout, and 7% had high financial distress. GCs reported generally lower levels of anxiety and depression compared to healthcare workers and the general population. Thematic analysis identified feelings of isolation and difficulties balancing professional/personal responsibilities with more remote work. However, some participants reported greater flexibility in their schedule and more time with family. Self-care activities increased, with 93% engaging in more meditation and 54% began exercising. There were similar themes reported in this survey compared to other healthcare workers’ experiences. There is also a dichotomy in positive and negative impacts with some GCs appreciating the flexibility of working from home but others reporting this blurs the line between personal and professional responsibilities. These results suggest consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to impact the field of genetic counseling and understanding these changes will be instrumental in addressing the needs of GCs to practice effectively.
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