Exploring QU Health Students' Experiences of Burnout, Anxiety, and Empathy during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Mixed Method Study
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Background Students' mental health is a growing concern. COVID-19 pandemic resulted in academic and non-academic challenges which caused students' burnout, anxiety, and reduced empathy. Objectives The study objectives were to assess burnout amongst QU Health students, determine the relationship between burnout and anxiety, and burnout and empathy, and to determine the students coping strategies. Methods A convergent mixed-methods design was used: (1) a cross-sectional survey using validated instruments. Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Students Survey (MBI-GS(S)) to measure burnout, Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item Scale (GAD-7) to measure anxiety, and Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) to measure empathy; (2) focus groups to get a deeper insight of the students' experiences and coping strategies. Descriptive and multivariate statistical analyses were used for the survey while the focus groups were analysed using deductive thematic analysis following the coping reserve model. Results 21.45% of students responded to the survey. Burnout was reported according to the subscales. MBI-Exhaustion (MBI-EX) subscale (mean= 4.07, SD= 1.56), MBI-Cynicism (MBI-CY) subscale (mean= 2.63, SD= 1.53), and MBI-Professional Efficacy (MBI-PE) subscale (mean= 3.97, SD= 1.22). MBI-EX and MBI-CY were associated with GAD-7 scores. MBI-EX and MBI-CY were associated with IRI-Empathic Concern (IRI-EC) and IRI-Personal Distress (IRI-PD) while MBI-PE was associated with IRI-Perspective Talking (IRI-PT) and IRI-EC. The students used many coping strategies to build resilience. Conclusion QU Health students experienced burnout during the spring 2020 semester. Many burnout causes and coping strategies were identified. It is suggested for QU to start mentorship programs and mental health initiatives to promote students' resilience.