Burnout has been well examined among physicians and other high-wage, high-autonomy healthcare positions. However, lower-wage healthcare workers with less workplace autonomy (e.g., medical assistants, nurses’ aides) represent a substantial proportion of the workforce, but remain understudied. We aimed to examine the effects of burnout on psychotropic medication use and misuse and whether these effects differed by occupational level.
In March 2022, we collected data from a diverse sample of US healthcare workers (N = 200) and examined the cross-sectional relationship between burnout and changes in prescribed psychotropic medication (i.e., starting, stopping, and/or having a change in the dose/frequency) during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also separately examined the relationship between burnout and psychotropic medication misuse (i.e., without a prescription, in greater amounts, more often, longer than prescribed, and/or for a reason other than prescribed). We stratified models by occupational level (prescribers/healthcare administrators vs. other healthcare workers).
Greater burnout was associated with higher odds of changes in prescribed psychotropic medication among prescribers/healthcare administrators (aOR = 1.23, 95% CI 1.01, 1.48), but not among other healthcare workers (aOR = 1.04, 95% CI 0.98, 1.10). Greater burnout was not associated with psychotropic medication misuse among prescribers/healthcare administrators (aOR = 0.96, 95% CI 0.82, 1.12) but was associated with increased odds of psychotropic medication misuse among other healthcare workers (aOR = 1.07, 95% CI 1.01, 1.14).
Potential disparities in help-seeking and healthcare access might manifest in non-medical use of prescription drugs among some healthcare workers, which has implications for worker safety and well-being.