First author Kristen McHenry, assistant professor, along with co-authors TJ Wing, associate professor and program director and Jody Lester, associate professor, all from the degree advancement program in the Department of Respiratory Care, published findings from their study “Assessing Burnout and Resiliency in Online Degree Advancement Respiratory Care Students During a Pandemic.” The article was published in the March edition of The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice. Yong Gao, professor in the Department of Kinesiology, and Lanny Inabnit from the American Association of Respiratory Care also contributed.
The survey’s aim was to better understand the strengths and struggles these students, to identify opportunities for support and outreach, and to advance research of student and healthcare worker burnout.
The investigators found an increased incidence of depersonalization, or distancing oneself from work and others, and emotional exhaustion in a subset of the participants. The subset specifically included those working in adult critical care, working directly with COVID patients, and professionals younger than age 40. The study found that students who are more resilient are less likely to disconnect from work, school, and others and experience less physical and/or mental fatigue.
These findings support the need for training and education on emotional intelligence and opportunities to practice mindfulness-based stress reduction, the authors said. Additionally they state workload reductions and adequate time for recovery may help alleviate the emotional exhaustion of working respiratory therapists who feel overextended while pursuing an advanced degree online.