Assessing fear of COVID-19 at an academic medical center


  • Michael W. Brand, PhD
  • Brandt Wiskur, PhD, MSW
  • Julio I. Rojas, PhD



COVID-19, academic medical center, fear, assessing fear of COVID-19, survey


Purpose: This study measured the degree of COVID-19-related fear among academic medical center employees, identified subsections with high COVID-19 fear, and validated the Fear of COVID-19 Scale with medical professionals in the United States.

Methods: This study is a cross-sectional, inter-net-based survey delivered by Qualtrics. The survey was conducted at the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center between May 21 and June 18, 2020. The medical center is composed of seven health-care colleges, child and adult hospitals, a Veterans Hospital, and outpatient services clinics across the Oklahoma City area. Faculty, staff, and students (N = 1,761) from the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center completed the survey.

Results: COVID-19 fear is highest among non-clinical employees, smokers, and those with pre-existing conditions. Males and females, both clinicians and non-clinicians, appear to express their COVID-19 fears differently. Employees worried most about their families contracting the virus. The Fear of COVID-19 Scale is a valid and reliable assessment instrument among US healthcare workers. Responses were compared based on pre-existing medical condition(s), patient care or nonpatient care, sex, and occupational specialization. Analyses reveal a strong Cronbach’s α measure of internal consistency (α = 0.87). Significant differences were observed among employees with a nonclinical emphasis (p = 0.02), with a predisposing medical health condition (p < 0.001), and with a nonacademic occupational specialization (p < 0.01), and by sex (p < 0.001).

Conclusions and discussion: COVID-19 fear significantly impacts academic medical center employ-ees. Medical centers should address both healthcare and nonhealthcare workers’ COVID-19-related fears. It is important to recognize that men and women may have different types of fears and express them differently, necessitating a gender-specific approach to man-aging COVID-19 fears. Employees with pre-existing conditions or who have vulnerable family members require additional support to remain fully functional and on the job.

Author Biographies

Michael W. Brand, PhD

Social Work and Administration, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Brandt Wiskur, PhD, MSW

Department of Academic Affairs and Faculty Development, College of Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Julio I. Rojas, PhD

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma


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How to Cite

Brand, PhD, M. W., B. Wiskur, PhD, MSW, and J. I. Rojas, PhD. “Assessing Fear of COVID-19 at an Academic Medical Center”. Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 18, no. 7, July 2020, pp. 91-98, doi:10.5055/jem.0532.