UNT professor, former student team up to study health care worker welfare during pandemic

Friday, January 22, 2021 - 15:00

DENTON (UNT), Texas — A University of North Texas professor and former doctoral student teamed up to study the welfare of health care workers during the pandemic and the correlation between caring for COVID-19 patients and provider levels of exhaustion.

G. Brint Ryan College of Business Associate Professor Danielle Cooper and former UNT doctoral student Kathryn Ostermeier, now working at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island, analyzed the level of involvement of Northeast Texas area health care workers in the COVID-19 response and how their involvement affected emotional exhaustion at work as well as susceptibility to depression.

“We examined the experiences of health care workers’ involvement in COVID-19 through a number of experiences, including threat of infection, actual infection, the number of COVID cases they see in a day, and other potentially traumatic COVID-related experiences,” said Cooper. “We also wanted to understand factors that may potentially intensify these effects or possibly mitigate them.”  

Their research found that the more a worker was involved in the COVID-19 crisis, the more exhausted they became—an outcome that was intensified for those who were defined as prosocial individuals, or those who were motivated to work so that they could help others. Risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus was also found to correlate with higher instances of depression among health care workers.

Cooper and Ostermeier teamed up with Miguel Caldas at the University of Texas at Tyler to conduct the research. Their research, titled “When helping hurts: COVID-19 critical incident involvement and resource depletion in health care workers," was published in The Journal of Applied Psychology, a Financial Times top-50 publication.

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Trista Moxley