Will we ever be the same again? The mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health care staff and institutions

Johannes H. De Kock, Helen Ann Latham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


As a group, health care workers (HCWs) were vulnerable to poor mental health (MH) prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The added burdens of COVID-19 have put extra stressors on the health system and its most precious resource—its workers. This pandemic has exacerbated already poor MH in HCWs, leading to a workforce that is burnt out and struggling to cope with growing demands. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, risk factors for poor HCW mental health have been identified. The changes in practices brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and identified as risk factors for poor MH that were experienced in other areas of health care and medical establishments were also witnessed by HCWs working in cytology. Indeed, all health care staff have been affected by this pandemic, and we now know that MH problems in HCWs are negatively impacting the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath as they adversely influence quality of care. The question is then rightfully asked: Will we, as health care staff working in medical establishments, ever be the same again, or has COVID-19 forever changed our working lives? Fortunately, protective factors and multi-level interventions associated with adaptive MH outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic have also been identified. In this article, we conclude that whilst working life is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic practices, the health care system now has an opportunity to promote individual and systemic growth by adhering to the principles that protect HCWs' MH and mitigate burnout during these challenging times.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)450-455
Number of pages6
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2023


  • COVID-19
  • health care
  • mental health
  • psychology
  • staff
  • workers


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