Background: COVID-19 is a new and emerging public health concern, caused by SARS-COV-2, a new corona virus. Health professionals are in the frontline in the fight against this pandemic; hence, they have high risk of being infected and they may introduce or amplify outbreaks in their health units. The purpose of this study is to characterize and assess Biomedical Scientists’ risk of COVID-19 exposure and stress appraisals in relation to their contact with infected patients.
Methods: Cross-sectional, survey-based study. A sample of 233 Portuguese Biomedical Scientists (76.4% females) were recruited through social networks and professional associations. Data were collected via a structured on-line questionnaire, which included the WHO’s Risk Assessment and Management of Exposure Survey and the Stress Appraisal Measure.
Results: Participants worked mainly in outpatient settings (45%) and in emergency services (28%). Most participants were senior technicians in radiology (28.5%), clinical analysis (26.3%), cardiopneumology (12.3%) and pharmacy (10, 1%). 22.9% of participants were exposed to COVID-19 through community exposure, while 39% were exposed in a professional context. 89 (50%) directly provided some health care to a confirmed patient with COVID-19. Although 94.9% reported using personal protective equipment (PPE) while providing health care or diagnostic and therapeutic tests to a COVID-19 patient, 83.6% had a high risk for COVID-19 virus infection. According to the biomedical scientist exposure risk categorization to COVID-19, it was found that 83.6% had a high risk and 16.4% a low risk. Concerning stress appraisals, results suggest moderate perceptions of stress and threat, but also moderate perceptions of control over the situation.
Implications: Recommendations for protection rules must reinforce the support by the health care facilities alongside the development of coping skills. Future studies should consider biomedical scientists’ emotional states to ascertain the role of the interaction of control and threat appraisals in mitigating stress.