Working through the coronavirus pandemic: how is it affecting you and how are you coping?

There is limited research about how social care workers cope with supporting others while protecting their own health during a pandemic. A new study seeks to fill the gap and is looking for practitioners to feed in their experiences

word 'resilience' spelt out in blocks
Photo: deeaf/AdobeStock

By Dr Paula McFadden and Dr Patricia Gillen, Ulster University

While, it has been made clear, by the World Health Organisation, among others, that fighting the Covid-19 pandemic is everybody’s business, the main burden for caring and treating our citizens falls to frontline health and social care services.

Previous studies undertaken with health care staff during the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) outbreaks highlight the stress placed on staff and their coping strategies. While staff nurses admitted worrying about infecting their families and colleagues, they were able to cope due to a number of strategies including deriving support from colleagues and recognition by employers of their efforts and receiving infection control guidance and equipment.

But despite our experience of pandemics, there is limited reporting in the literature about how health and social care workers cope with meeting the challenges of caring for patients, in both hospital and community settings, while potentially putting their own health at risk.

That is why we are carrying out a study to explore the impact of working on the frontline under Covid-19, how workers cope and what lessons can be learned from this pandemic, which will inform health and social employers’ planning for future ones.

To inform our research, we are surveying social workers and social care workers on their experience. We are interested in the professional quality of their working lives, social and emotional wellbeing and methods of coping at this time. We are also working with other health disciplines to reach nurses, midwives and allied health professional workers and we will collate the collective voice of these frontline staff and publish the findings.

The responses to the survey will help inform employers and policymakers about what the workforce needs to cope during a pandemic. This is a unique opportunity to be part of a survey that will have meaningful impact to evidence what works, and what needs to be introduced to support staff to manage and cope with the demands of work during these extraordinarily challenging times.

If you are a social worker or social care worker who is currently employed, self-employed or an agency worker, within any area of health and social care in the UK, we want to hear from you.

Please follow the link or scan the QR code below, which will take you to some further information on the study and a questionnaire which will take 15 minutes to complete.

Health and social care workers’ quality of working life and coping while working during a Covid-19 Pandemic

Please share this invitation (on social media or by email) to take part in this research with fellow social workers and social care workers in the UK. If you would like further information about the research, please contact Dr Paula McFadden at p.mcfadden@ulster.ac.uk  or Dr Patricia Gillen at p.gillen@ulster.ac.uk

About the research

The research is funded by the Southern Health & Social Care Trust Research Fund and the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (SCC). However professional regulators, associations and workplace unions including the Northern Ireland Practice and Education Committee for Nursing and Midwifery, the Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwifes, Royal College of Occupational Therapists, British Dental Association, College of Podiatry and Norther Ireland Social Care Council are helping to get the questionnaire to participants.  Community Care is helping with dissemination to social workers and social care workers in the UK. Sincere thanks to our funders and partners in support with this research and a special thanks to you, the social workers and social care workers for responding to this survey.

One Response to Working through the coronavirus pandemic: how is it affecting you and how are you coping?

  1. Lin May 18, 2020 at 4:26 pm #

    When lockdown was introduced, in my authority, we were told in a universal e-mail that our management were working flat out to find safe ways of us doing our jobs. We then got a box of satsumas. A few days later we got a chart telling us which senior managers were covering different aspects of the reformulated service as how to contact them. All were immediately working from home and continue to do so. When we became aware of PPE we asked what was to be issued and were told hand gel was adequate and safe for our responsibilities. Home visits were expected as usual and home working had to satisfy a tariff. Social workers without children of adult dependants could not work from home unless they were self isolating and expected to self certificate of get one from a GP. AMPH’s were expected to be office based and needed to demonstrate they could not find alternative carers before permitted to work from home. Not much has changed since. My response to the survey is that staff feel valued and supported when they see and know managers are broadly working under the same conditions and expectations. Creating safe environment for managers and business as normal for practitioners is demorolising. It really isn’t complicated. Listen, offer meaningful support, genuinely care for staff wellbeing, don’t threaten or imply threats, trust in staff integrity and professionalism and when told staff are fearful for their safety don’t dismiss us as being weak and not coping. The fact that I can’t sign off in my real name is a lesson in itself at a time when do many of our colleagues have fallen sick and sadly some have died.

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