Research and innovation , News

Photograph: Courtesy of Shutterstock

As if it were not enough to risk their lives and that of their families, health personnel in Colombia suffer the consequences of the care of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was revealed by a study by the CES University of Medellín that shows how the disorders and mental health effects of the 'heroes' in white coats increased.

The study of the Center of Excellence in Research in Mental Health (CESISM) of the CES University was developed last July with 711 professionals in Bogotá, Barranquilla, Cali, Medellín and other cities in the country. Of the total consulted, doctors represent 67.9%, nursing staff 22.8% and other professionals such as assistants, physiotherapists, nutritionists almost 9.3%.

According to the Center, due to different factors in the context of the development and care of the coronavirus pandemic, it is not surprising that health care personnel are, especially, susceptible to suffering from mood disorders such as anxiety, depression and insomnia .

In recent months, doctors and health personnel in the world and in Colombia have had to face an unprecedented situation: the COVID-19 pandemic, a reality that has led them to work in extreme situations, as well as to make decisions under excessive pressure”, Justified Dr. Yolanda Torres de Galvis, director of CESISM and leader of the study at CES University.

The Colombian research is supported by the World Mental Health Survey Initiative, a collaborative project of the World Health Organization (WHO).


67.5% of the professionals who participated in the study work in private clinics or hospitals; 25.0% in public institutions; and 7.5% in mixed capital entities. The work areas in which they work are hospitalization, emergencies, intensive care units, intermediate care units and the administrative area.

Among the first findings, it was found that health professionals identify with the fear of being infected and infecting their family; being discriminated against and even attacked for working in the hospital or clinic where patients are treated; the fear that a coworker will be diagnosed with COVID-19 and the most painful of them may die from the disease caused by the virus.

In the study, validated scales were applied on mental disorders of anxiety, depression, sleep problems or insomnia. Of the total sample, close to 40.0% of those consulted met the criteria for suffering from some type of disorder.

Doctors are the most affected for all the disorders studied, presenting 35.4% anxiety; 26.7% depression and 13.0% insomnia; followed by other professionals with 31.8% anxiety, 18.2% depression, and 4.5% insomnia. On the other hand, 27.8% of the nurses suffer from anxiety, 16.7% from depression and 10.5% from insomnia.

This situation is accompanied by feelings of disgust, grief and guilt, and culminates in burnout syndrome, a phenomenon known asMoral injury, defined as psychological stress, one of the most severe aggressors in these times ", detailed Dr. Torres de Galvis.

Part of this situation is derived from the factors to which they are exposed, such as having to isolate themselves from their family due to clinical work; lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE); participate in areas that are not part of their specialty; long working hours; physical and mental tiredness; loss of personal routine; rejection and aggression by segments of society; and excessive medical and non-medical information related to the coronavirus (Infodemia).

The study concludes by recommending: in order to offer the best approach to urgent and unsatisfied psychosocial problems, prevention and intervention models for psychosocial crisis should be developed, with the application of the Internet and appropriate technologies, if possible integrating all health organizations, mental health authorities, professional associations, psychiatrists and psychologists, as well as combining early intervention with subsequent rehabilitation services.

Know all the news