By Dr Paula McFadden and Dr Patricia Gillen, Ulster University
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the incredible personal resilience and commitment of frontline staff as they worked together to prevent the health and social care system from collapsing under increasing pressures.
This commitment has, however, taken a significant toll on the physical and emotional wellbeing of staff. Since the start of the pandemic, frontline staff have reported increased levels of stress, symptoms of anxiety, depression, insomnia and substantial fears for their own health and safety (Royal College of Nursing, 2020; Spoorthy et al, 2020). There has also been an increase in sickness absence amongst the workforce, often due to shielding or self-isolation (Skills for Care 2020).
Worldwide, there has been a number of pandemics over the last 100 years. However, 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 and lives at risk.
We are conducting research to explore the emotional impact of working on the frontline, including how workers cope and what lessons can be learned from the pandemic.
Depression and anxiety
The results from our phase 1 survey (May – Jul 2020), which received 3,290 responses from UK health and social care professionals, revealed that 9% were likely or possibly suffering from depression and/or anxiety.
In terms of work-related quality of life, we found some differences across countries, with respondents from Wales reporting the highest overall work-related quality of life.
Additionally, we found that staff with higher wellbeing and better work-related quality of life were using positive coping strategies, including active coping, emotional support, work-family segmentation and relaxation, whereas those with lower wellbeing and lower work-related quality of life were more likely to use negative coping strategies. You can access an overview of the findings from the phase 1 survey, as well as the full report.
In the current phase 2 survey (November 2020-January 2021), we are again examining the quality of working life, social and emotional wellbeing and methods of coping in the nurses, midwives, allied health professionals, social care workers and social workers who are working in the UK during the pandemic.
Tracking how Covid’s impact has changed
Our aim is to see if there have been any changes in these domains over the last six months, as the pandemic has progressed. 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.
The survey is open to any social worker, social care worker, nurse, midwife, or allied health professional, working in the UK, whether employed, self-employed or for an agency, and irrespective of whether you completed the phase 1 survey.
Please scan the QR code or click on the link below which will take you to some further information on the study and a questionnaire which will take 15 minutes to complete.
Please share this invitation (on social media or by email) to take part in this research with your social worker and social care worker friends and colleagues in the UK. If you would like further information about the research, please contact Dr Paula McFadden on firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr Patricia Gillen on email@example.com
The research is funded by the public health agency HSC Research and Development in Northern Ireland. In addition, professional regulators, associations employers and workplace unions including 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 Northern Ireland Social Care Council, Scottish Social Services Council and Social Care Wales are helping to get the questionnaire to participants.
Community Care has helped with dissemination to social workers and social care workers UK wide. 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.
Royal College of Nursing (2020) Building a better future for nursing: RCN members have their say
Skills for Care (2020). Days lost due to sickness – monthly tracking
Spoorthy, MS, Pratapa, SK, & Mahant, S (2020) Mental health problems faced by healthcare workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic – A review Asian Journal of Psychiatry