Investigating the Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Psychologists’ Professional Quality of Life in Aotearoa New Zealand
Psychologists are at known risk of work-related stress, secondary trauma, and burnout, due to their work with people experiencing trauma, mental health, and other difficulties. The current COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress and anxiety for communities around the world and subsequently, increased demand for mental health services. This study aims to examine the impact of COVID-19 on psychologists’ professional quality of life, personal psychological symptoms, and work-related stress. It expands on previous burnout and quality of life studies amongst psychologists by further exploring the influence of COVID-19.
A total of 110 registered psychologists were recruited via the communication channels of the various psychological institutions, including the New Zealand Psychological Society and the New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists. The data collected included psychologists’ symptoms of Compassion Fatigue and Satisfaction, Psychological Distress, COVID-19-Related Stress and Resilience. Additionally, their professional and personal circumstances during the third year of the pandemic were considered.
The results showed that over 80% of respondents either experienced a significant increase in work and caseload intensity, or it remained the same. New Zealand psychologists reported that they received little to no additional support to help meet their professional and personal obligations during this time. High rates of Compassion Fatigue and low Resilience were reported. In addition, three factors were identified as significant predictors of Compassion Fatigue: COVID-19-Related Stress, Years’ Experience and Working with High risk Clients. In contrast, high Compassion Satisfaction scores were reported, and approximately 95% of respondents indicated that they had no intentions of leaving the profession in the foreseeable future.
As Compassion Fatigue continues to be a concern within this profession, the current findings advocate for increased professional support, for example, additional supervision, encouraging psychologists to be more open about their struggles, implementing standardised practices for monitoring levels of burnout and stress, maintaining minimum safe staffing levels, and recruiting additional psychologists in order to match the demand. Considering the importance of this service to mental health, it is crucial to support the people who provide it.