Lower respiratory infections are amongst the top causes of death globally. In early 2020, COVID-19 was designated as a pandemic and despite our experience of pandemics (e.g., SARS), there is limited research about how health and social care staff cope with the challenges of caring for patients while potentially putting their own health at risk. The current study therefore examined the impact of providing health and social care during COVID-19 on nurses, midwives, AHPs, social care workers and social workers.
An online survey using validated scales and open-ended questions was used to collect data from health and social care staff from across the UK in May and June 2020. Questions focused on the quality of working life, coping and mental wellbeing. The survey also captured information on how health and social care employers had supported staff and lessons learned for future pandemics and for ongoing health and social care provision.
The survey received 3,290 responses, mostly from social care workers and social workers, with lower response rates from nurses, midwives and AHPs. A multiple regression analysis showed that individuals using positive coping strategies, particularly active coping, emotional support, relaxation and exercise, had higher wellbeing scores. Lower wellbeing scores were associated with disengagement and substance use as coping strategies. Better quality of working life was associated with active coping, emotional support, work family segmentation and relaxation. Participants using disengagement and family work segmentation had lower quality of working life. No differences were observed between occupational groups.
Positive coping strategies seem to be playing a significant role in health and social care workers’ wellbeing and quality of working life and interventions may be needed to support those who are struggling to cope. These could take the form of employer-organised workshops to better equip staff with positive coping skills.