05 January 2021
Working under pandemic conditions exposes health care workers (HCWs) to infection risk and psychological strain. Protecting the physical and psychological health of HCWs is a key priority. The Social Sciences team of RECOVER assessed the perceptions of European hospital HCWs of local infection prevention and control (IPC) procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on their emotional wellbeing.
Two rounds of an international cross-sectional survey were performed between March and August 2020. 2,289 hospital HCWs from 40 different countries in Europe participated. Mean age of respondents was 42 (±11) years, 66% were female, 47% and 39% were medical doctors and nurses, respectively. The majority worked in acute care medicine (33%).
74% of respondents were directly treating patients with COVID-19, of which 32% reported they were fearful of caring for these patients. Not only were there high levels of concern about HCWs’ own risk of COVID-19 infection (71%), almost all were worried about the risk to their families due to their job role (82%). Overall, 40% of HCWs considered that getting infected with COVID-19 was not within their control, this was more common among junior than senior HCWs. Sufficient COVID-19-specific IPC training, confidence in appropriate use of personal protective equipment and institutional trust were positively associated with the feeling that becoming infected with COVID-19 was within their control. Female HCWs were more likely than males to report a WHO-5 score below 50 points (a cut-off score used to screen for depression).
These results highlight that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a differential impact on those providing direct COVID-19 patient care, junior staff and women. Health facilities must be aware of these differential impacts, build trust and provide tailored support for this vital workforce during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Authors: Denise van Hout, Paul Hutchinson, Marta Wanat, Caitlin Pilbeam, Herman Goossens, Sibyl Anthierens, Sarah Tonkin-Crine, Nina Gobat