Leadership communication, stress, and burnout among frontline emergency department staff amid the COVID-19 pandemic : A mixed methods approach

Copyright © 2021 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved..

BACKGROUND: Organizations have a key role to play in supporting healthcare workers (HCWs) and mitigating stress during COVID-19. We aimed to understand whether perceptions of support and communication by local leadership were associated with reduced reports of stress and burnout among frontline HCWs.

METHODS: We conducted cross-sectional surveys embedded within emergency department (ED) workflow during the first wave of COVID-19 from April 9, 2020 to June 15th, 2020 within three EDs of a multisite health system in the Northeast United States. All ED HCWs were administered electronic surveys during shift via text message. We simultaneously conducted 64 qualitative interviews to better characterize and validate survey responses. Primary survey outcomes were levels of work stress and burnout.

RESULTS: Over 10 week study, 327 of 431 (76%) frontline HCWs responded to at least one round of the survey. More useful communication mediated through higher perception of support was significantly associated with lower work stress (B = -0.33, p < 0.001) and burnout (B = -7.84, p < 0.001). A one-point increase on the communication Likert scale was associated with a 9% reduction in stress and a 19% reduction in burnout. Three themes related to effective crisis communication during COVID-19 emerged in interviews: (1) information consolidation prior to dissemination, (2) consistency of communication, and (3) bi-directional communication.

CONCLUSION: This work suggests that effective local leadership communication, characterized by information consolidation, consistency, and bi-directionality, leads to higher perceptions of support and lower stress and burnout among ED frontline workers. As the pandemic continues, these results present an evidence-based framework for leaders to support frontline HCWs through effective crisis communication.

Media Type:

Electronic Article

Year of Publication:


Contained In:

Healthcare (Amsterdam, Netherlands) - Vol. 9, No. 4 (2021), p. 100577




Sangal, Rohit B
Bray, Alexandra
Reid, Eleanor
Ulrich, Andrew
Liebhardt, Beth
Venkatesh, Arjun K
King, Marissa



Keywords: Schlagworte

Date Completed 09.12.2021

Date Revised 14.12.2021

published: Print-Electronic

Citation Status MEDLINE

Copyright: From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

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