Experiences of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic amongst Australian Healthcare workers: From stressors to protective factors.

Elsevier BV
Publication Type:
Journal Article
J Hosp Infect, 2021
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
BACKGROUND: The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has critically challenged healthcare systems globally. Examining the experiences of healthcare workers (HCWs) is important for optimising ongoing and future pandemic responses. OBJECTIVES: In-depth exploration of Australian HCWs' experiences of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, with a focus on reported stressors vis-à-vis protective factors. METHODS: Individual interviews were performed with 63 HCWs in Australia. A range of professional streams and operational staff were included. Thematic analysis was performed. RESULTS: Thematic analysis identified stressors centred on paucity of, or changing, evidence, leading to absence of, or mistrust in, guidelines; unprecedented alterations to the autonomy and sense of control of clinicians; and, deficiencies in communication and support. Key protective factors included: the development of clear guidance from respected clinical leaders or recognised clinical bodies, interpersonal support, and strong teamwork, leadership, and a sense of organisational preparedness. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides insights into the key organisational sources of emotional stress for HCWs within pandemic responses and describes experiences of protective factors. HCWs experiencing unprecedented uncertainty, fear, and rapid change, rely on clear communication, strong leadership, guidelines endorsed by recognised expert groups or individuals, and have increased reliance on interpersonal support. Structured strategies for leadership and communication at team, service group and organisational levels, provision of psychological support, and consideration of the potential negative effects of centralising control, would assist in ameliorating the extreme pressures of working within a pandemic environment.
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