Potential traumatic events in the workplace and depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress : a cross-sectional study among Dutch gynaecologists, paediatricians and orthopaedic surgeons

Objective To compare the prevalence of work-related potential traumatic events (PTEs), support protocols and mental health symptoms across Dutch gynaecologists, orthopaedic surgeons and paediatricians.


Design Cross-sectional study, supplementary analysis of combined data.


Setting Nationwide survey between 2014 and 2017.


Participants An online questionnaire was sent to all Dutch gynaecologists, orthopaedic surgeons and paediatricians, including resident physicians (4959 physicians). 1374 questionnaires were eligible for analysis, corresponding with a response rate of 27.7%.


Primary outcome measures were the prevalence of work-related PTEs, depression, anxiety, psychological distress and traumatic stress, measured with validated screening instruments (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Trauma Screening Questionnaire). Secondary outcomes were the association of mental health and defensive practice to traumatic events and support protocols.


Results Of the respondents, 20.8% experienced a work-related PTE at least 4 weeks ago. Prevalence rates indicative of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were 6.4%, 13.6% and 1.5%, respectively. Depression (9.2% vs 5.2%, p=0.019), anxiety (18.2% vs 8.2%, p<0.001) and psychological distress (22.8% vs 12.5%, p<0.001) were significantly more prevalent in female compared with male attendings. The absence of a support protocol was significantly associated with more probable PTSD (p=0.022). Those who witnessed a PTE, reported more defensive work changes (28.0% vs 20.5%, p=0.007) and those with probable PTSD considered to quit medical work more often (60.0% vs 35.8%, p=0.032).


Conclusion Physicians are frequently exposed to PTEs with high emotional impact over the course of their career. Lacking a support protocol after adverse events was associated with more post-traumatic stress. Adverse events were associated with considering to quit medical practice and a more defensive practice. More awareness must be created for the mental health of physicians as well as for the implementation of a well-organised support system after PTEs.


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Karel Willem Frank Scheepstra, Hannah S Pauw, Minouk Esmee van Steijn, Claire A I Stramrood, Miranda Olff, Maria G van Pampus | 2020
In: BMJ Open : ISSN: 2044-6055 | 10 | 9 | e033816
Epub ahead of print DOI : 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-033816
Anxiety Symptoms, Depressive Symptoms, Life Experiences, Medical Personnel, Netherlands, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD (en), Research, Traumatic events
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