New study looks at challenges HPs faced during Covid

A new CQUniversity study is looking into how frontline workers such as nurses, doctors and other health professionals are handling the Covid-19 crisis.

Led by CQUni Nursing Senior Lecturer Dr Ashlyn Sahay and Exercise and Sports Sciences Lecturer Dr Samantha Fien, the study is looking beyond the emotional and psychological impact of the virus on health professionals and instead aims to focus on the psychosocial work environment, in a bid to improve their capacity to provide quality care.

“There is currently limited empirical evidence on the impact of Covid-19 on healthcare professionals” says Dr Sahay.

“Gaining this insight will develop our understanding of how we can strengthen the psychosocial work environment and identify areas of focus for effective leadership to support healthcare professionals and enhance their capacity to deliver quality care during times of crisis.”

Dr Sahay says online surveys of health professionals and clinicians from around Australia and the world, started last month, with the data still being collated, but the pressure on health services was already evident with tens of millions of Covid-19 cases and more than a million deaths worldwide.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has required health systems to change much faster than normal,” she says.

“While traditionally many practitioners have experience working over long periods in effective teams to deliver complex services, crisis situations such as the Covid-19 pandemic saw healthcare professionals quickly becoming part of new teams and having to perform to a high standard in a short time in a changed workplace dynamic.

“Moreover, healthcare professionals are often confronted with high demands in their daily working conditions.

“Besides high workload, staff shortage, and shift working, healthcare professionals have to deal with suffering and dying patients and their families, time pressure, perceived lack of reward, and sometimes conflict with other professions.

“Given the increased demand for healthcare services and especially during a pandemic, healthcare professionals carry both a physical as well as a continuous psychological burden, which can have an impact on quality of care.”

She says to date, emphasis on healthcare professionals and the psychosocial factors are not as closely explored and integrated in understanding the effect on the health workforce and provision of care during a crisis.

“It is well known that quality measurement is essential during both times of stability and times of crisis,” she says.

“During a crisis, healthcare is still being delivered, and the need to understand the quality and safety of that care becomes more important as the care processes continue to rapidly change.

“Earlier non Covid-19 studies indicate safety climates for healthcare professionals spill over into adverse outcomes for their health, and when these healthcare professionals are compromised, then so too is their provision of quality patient care.

“As such, the psychosocial workplace dynamics have traditionally presented challenges and complexities to healthcare professionals’ provision to deliver quality care, which potentially is now exacerbated by Covid-19 crisis.

“The current approach, therefore, is simply not resilient enough when attention and resources need to be focused holistically, with perspectives of frontline healthcare professionals integrated into the decision-making of a pandemic and crisis management for future unprecedented times.”

The survey component of the study is expected to be completed by the middle of 2021.

Healthcare professionals interested in participating in the study can contact Dr Sahay via email: a.sahay@cqu.edu.au.