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Resident physician outlook on death, dying and end-of-life care during the COVID-19 pandemic: effect of religion and burnout
  1. Simran Kripalani1,
  2. John P Gaughan1,2 and
  3. Elizabeth Cerceo2
  1. 1Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Camden, New Jersey, USA
  2. 2Cooper University Health Care, Camden, New Jersey, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Elizabeth Cerceo, Cooper University Health Care, Camden, NJ 08002, USA; cerceo-elizabeth{at}


Objectives Religion and spirituality are important aspects of many physicians and patients’ lives and may impact their views of death and the way they interact with terminally ill patients, specifically comfort discussing end-of-life care and death and dying. This study explores the religious and spiritual beliefs of resident physicians, if they affect interactions with their patients and if burnout impedes this interaction.

Methods A 28-item questionnaire was administered to residents and fellows at an urban academic hospital.

Results 65 residents and fellows answered the survey. Religiosity but not spirituality correlated with reported comfort interacting with patients dealing with death or dying. Resident specialty, biological sex and spirituality were not associated with comfort and conversations about religion and end-of-life care. The majority (60%) reported that the pandemic has not affected how they speak to their patients about death and dying. Caring for a higher volume of terminally ill patients was not associated with high levels of burnout though 71% reported increased burnout due to COVID-19.

Conclusion Further research can be done to determine whether additional training or resources should be provided to resident physicians to cope with death and dying in the setting of a pandemic.

  • End of life care
  • Spiritual care
  • Hospice care

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  • Contributors All persons who meet authorship criteria are listed as authors, and all authors certify that they have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for the content, including participation in the concept, design, analysis, writing or revision of the manuscript. SK and EC conceived and designed the study, acquired the data and drafted and edited the manuscript. JPG, SK and EC analysed and interpreted the data and approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Disclaimer The ideas expressed in this article are solely our own and do not express the views or opinions of our employer.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.