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COVID-19 experiences of health care workers

The social sciences research of the RECOVER (Rapid European COVID-19 Emergency research Response) project provides social- and behavioural insights into patient and clinician experiences providing and receiving care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perceptions infection prevention & control

Working under pandemic conditions exposes health care workers (HCWs) to infection risk and psychological strain. The protection of the physical and psychological health of HCWs should be a key priority of hospitals. The Social Sciences team of RECOVER assessed the perceptions of European hospital HCWs on local infection prevention and control (IPC) procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on their emotional wellbeing. The preprint of the first article is available.

COVID-19 infection experiences of health care workers

Recruitment strategy

An international cross-sectional survey was sent out to European HCWs in two rounds between March and August of 2020. In the first round, participants were recruited through the Spanish CIBER group and the COMBACTE network. COMBACTE’s National Coordinators disseminated the survey via their local networks and societies. In the second round, participants were recruited via newsletters shared in European research networks and clinical networks, and through social media by distributing an online study flyer. In total, 2,289 hospital HCWs from 40 different countries across Europe participated in the survey.

Social impact due to COVID-19

Survey results show that there is an overall low level of emotional wellbeing in HCWs providing hospital care during the COVID-19 pandemic and following local infection prevention and control (IPC) guidelines. There was a particular concern among those providing direct COVID-19 patient care, junior staff, and women. Furthermore, almost all respondents were worried about the risk to their families due to their job. One-third of HCWs reported fear of looking after COVID-19 patients.

COVID-19 infection experiences of health care workers 1

Adopt a multifaceted approach

The survey shows that health care institutions should adopt a multifaceted approach in IPC preparedness and training in order to best support hospital HCWs during an infectious diseases pandemic. Such training has to be inclusive and accessible to all HCWs in need of assistance. The  importance of preventing and mitigating adverse impacts on wellbeing should also be recognized, together with the explicit assurance to protect the clinical workforce. The researchers recommend ensuring safe working conditions and accessible support in order to protect the physical and mental health of HCWs. Health care facilities are strongly advised to be aware of differential impacts on HCWs, build trust and provide tailored support for this vital workforce during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

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