Understanding the needs of healthcare workers returning to work following COVID-19


Understanding the needs of healthcare workers returning to work following COVID-19

COVID-19 has created a multitude of impacts for healthcare workers across the country. While restrictions continue to be lifted in day-to-day life, the aftermath of the first peak within the healthcare system is evident and growing. More than 15,000 healthcare staff temporarily returned to work (Link), including 12,000 doctors following volunteer calls from the General Medical Council (Link), in response to mounting pressure on the NHS during the peak of COVID-19. The Health and Safety Executive (link) suggests that a phased return to work scheme is usually the best option when individuals have been out of work for a long period of time. With this model, employees can engage in shorter working hours and modified duties that gradually build up to their original work plan. However, this was often not an option for healthcare staff returning during the COVID-19 pandemic due to staff shortages and work pressure, meaning that many staff members were placed back into stressful roles without adequate support. 


Psychological impact of Covid-19 on medical and healthcare workers

Untailored work adjustments and a scarcity of psychological interventions are key components in the rising issues of depression and poor work ability. However, previous research by Maudsley Learning has shown that educational interventions for returning doctors can be effective in boosting confidence and wellbeing (Link). Working on the front-line of the pandemic comes with many challenges, particularly regarding mental health. A recent study suggests that healthcare workers have a high risk of experiencing adverse mental health, most prominently those who are working in “high-risk” units (Link). Likewise, incidences of anxiety and stress disorder are high among medical staff in China working through the epidemic (Link). To adequately support healthcare workers we need to understand their needs, according to traditional biopsychosocial models of health, as well as occupational stress and organizational behaviour models. This will allow us to generate evidence tailored to the healthcare workplace, rather than an entirely health-focused approach.

As a novel and unprecedented situation, the psychological and organisational needs and experiences of doctors and supporting healthcare staff who have returned to assist against COVID-19 is currently under-documented. Maudsley Learning has launched a new research project to gain insight and understanding into the needs of healthcare workers, with the aim of learning about staff experiences during the pandemic. . Partnered with the Centre for Sustainable Working Life at Birkbeck, University of London, this project intends to understand participants’ experiences and needs, both health and work-related.. This data will then be used to inform the development and evaluation of a psycho-educational programme for healthcare workers. The data gathered also has the potential to inform policymakers and practice regarding support for healthcare workers in order to secure future sustainability and management, as well as wellbeing and retention within the workplace.

If you’re a healthcare worker who has been working during COVID-19, your insights would be greatly appreciated. Please take part and share your experiences by completing a 10-15 minute survey via this link. 

If you wish to gain more information about this project, please contact Chris Attoe: Chris.attoe@slam.nhs.uk

Discover  more information about our return to work training courses for doctors