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Physician Wellness During COVID-19: The Basics

Original release: March 20, 2020


Content Attribution

Well Doc Alberta has reviewed, synthesized, adapted, and added to information from the following three sources. Please consult these sources if you want more information.



Bulletin development:

Alicia Polachek MA, Co-Director, Well Doc Alberta

Bulletin review:

Jane Lemaire MD, Co-Director, Well Doc Alberta

What is the Impact of COVID-19 on Physicians?

The full impact on physicians is not known. However, infectious disease outbreaks may lead to:

  • Increased work demands and stress on top of usual healthcare delivery

  • Insomnia

  • Safety concerns for self and family members

  • Increased alcohol and/or tobacco use

  • Somatic symptoms such as reduced energy and/or aches and pains

  • Acute illness

  • Scapegoating

  • Feelings of isolation and stigmatization

  • Fear and feelings of constant vigilance regarding infection control

  • Dehydration and exhaustion as a result of wearing protective equipment


It’s normal to be worried. In particular, as a physician, you may have concerns about:

  • How to ensure proper safety precautions

  • Whether you will need to make difficult decisions like having to ration healthcare resources if the system is strained

  • How you and the healthcare system can keep up with the increasing demands

  • Whether you may get sick or transmit the illness to your family members

  • How you can continue to support your patients and families if you have to isolate or get sick

What May Help?

  • Stay informed, but don’t overload on news or social media. You may want to turn off notifications or reduce time on social platforms.

  • Accept that many aspects are out of your control. Focus on the things you can control and remember that there is a great deal of uncertainty right now.

  • Be patient and tolerant. This includes being patient with yourself and with others. Everyone is doing their best in these challenging times, and extra tolerance right now can go a long way. Remember that even if you feel you’re not doing enough, your contributions do make a difference.

  • Anticipate and plan for stress reactions. It’s normal to experience stress and fear during infectious disease outbreaks. Know what the signs are and have strategies in place for addressing these feelings, such as seeking support, practicing deep breathing, or engaging in physical activity when possible.

  • Remember to take care of your basic needs. Eat well, hydrate, take breaks, and get rest. It will likely be challenging, but if you’re not well, you won’t be able to take care of your patients. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish, it’s necessary.

  • Have a plan in place. This includes planning and practicing how you will respond in the workplace, as well as how you will respond if you or a family member get sick and have to self-isolate. Knowing how you will respond may help alleviate the stresses of the unknown.

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