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Buchbinder, Mara; Browne, Alyssa; Jenkins, Tania M.; Berlinger, Nancy; & Buchbinder, Liza (2023). Hospital Physicians’ Perspectives on Occupational Stress During COVID-19: A Qualitative Analysis from Two US Cities. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 38(1), 176-184. PMCID: PMC9633020


BACKGROUND: US physicians are at risk for high rates of occupational stress and burnout, which the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified. As approaches targeting physicians' individual resilience have fallen short, researchers are increasingly calling for studies that investigate organizational drivers of stress and burnout.
OBJECTIVE: To understand the multi-dimensional systems factors shaping hospital physicians' occupational stress during the pandemic.
DESIGN: Qualitative, semi-structured interviews conducted in February-October 2021.
SETTING: Hospitals in New York City and New Orleans.
PARTICIPANTS: A purposive snowball sample of attending physicians and fellows in hospital medicine, emergency medicine, pulmonary critical care, and palliative care who spent at least 4 weeks providing inpatient COVID-19 care beginning in March 2020 was selected. The sample included 40 physicians from 14 hospitals in New York City and 39 physicians from nine hospitals in New Orleans.
APPROACH: Descriptive analysis of participants' self-reported perceptions of occupational stress.
KEY RESULTS: Participants identified multiple factors shaping their occupational stress including individual-level factors such as age, work experience, and life stage; institutional-level factors such as resource disparities, institutional type and size, and policies; professional-level factors such as informal rationing and medical uncertainty; and societal-level factors such as the federal response, COVID politics, and social inequalities. Stressors within and across these four levels worked in combination to shape physicians' perceptions of occupational stress at the individual level.
CONCLUSIONS: This article contributes to an emergent literature on systems-based approaches to occupational stress and burnout among physicians by demonstrating the intersections among societal conditions, professional cultures, institutional work environments, and individual stress. Findings from semi-structured interviews suggest that interventions to reduce physician stress and burnout may be more effective if they target systems factors and stressors at multiple levels.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Journal of General Internal Medicine


Buchbinder, Mara
Browne, Alyssa
Jenkins, Tania M.
Berlinger, Nancy
Buchbinder, Liza

Article Type





United States of America


New York