J Korean Med Sci.  2021 Dec;36(47):e324. 10.3346/jkms.2021.36.e324.

Emotional Distress of the COVID-19 Cluster Infection on Health Care Workers Working at a National Hospital in Korea

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Bugok National Hospital, Changnyeong, Korea
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, Kosin University Gospel Hospital, Busan, Korea
  • 3Department of Psychiatry, Chung-Ang University Hospital, College of Medicine, Chung-Ang University, Seoul, Korea


Frontline healthcare workers responding to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) inevitably face tremendous psychological burden. Thus, the present study aimed to identify the psychological impact and the factors contributing to the likely increase in emotional distress of healthcare workers.
The participants include a total of 99 healthcare workers at Bugok National Hospital. Psychometric scales were used to assess emotional distress (12-item General Health Questionnaire; GHQ-12), depression symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire-9; PHQ-9), and post-traumatic stress disorder-related symptoms (Impact of Events Scale-Revised; IES-R). A supplementary questionnaire was administered to investigate the experience of healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19-infected patients. Based on the results of GHQ-12 survey, participants were categorized into two groups: distress and non-distress. All the assessed scores were compared between the two groups. A logistic regression model was constructed to identify factors associated with emotional distress.
Emotional distress was reported by 45.3% (n = 45) of all participants. The emotionally distressed group was more likely to be female, manage close contacts, have higher scores on PHQ-9 and IES-R, feel increased professional risk, and report that proper infection control training was not provided. Female gender, managing close contacts, higher scores on PHQ-9, and a feeling that proper infection control training was not provided were associated with emotional distress in logistic regression.
Frontline healthcare workers face tremendous psychological burden during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, appropriate psychological interventions should be provided to the HCWs engaged in the management of COVID-19-infected patients.


COVID-19; Healthcare Worker; Psychological Impact; Distress; Depression; PTSD
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