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Nurses to unpack COVID-19’s impact on work environment

How are Australia’s nurses and doctors handling the COVID-19 crisis?

That’s the question a new study will help unpack as it delves into the virus’ role in the psychosocial work environment.

Nursing senior lecturer Dr Ashlyn Sahay from CQUniversity said there is little empirical evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare professionals.

“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.”

Online surveys of Australian and international clinicians started last month and the data is still being collated.

Sahay said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has required health systems to change much faster than normal,” she said.

“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.”

Sahay warned that given the increased demand for healthcare services during the pandemic, nurses and doctors carry both physical and continuous psychological burden.

She added that to date, emphasis on psychosocial factors are not as closely explored.

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

“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.”

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

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