Experiences and views of frontline healthcare workers' family members in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative study

Sahra Tekin, Naomi Glover, Talya Greene, Dannielle Lamb, Dominic Murphy, Jo Billings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a well-documented negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of frontline healthcare workers (HCWs). Whilst no research has to date been carried out to explore the challenges experienced by the families of HCWs, some previous research has been conducted with military families, demonstrating that family members of deployed military personnel may also be affected seriously and negatively. Objectives: This study aimed to explore the experiences, views, and mental health impact on frontline HCWs’ families during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK and what support the families of frontline HCWs may need. Method: Close family members and friends of HCWs were interviewed. Transcripts were analysed in line with the principles of reflexive thematic analysis. Results: We completed fourteen interviews with three siblings, one mother, one friend, and nine spouses of HCWs. Family members were highly motivated to support healthcare workers and felt an intense sense of pride in their work. However, they also experienced increased domestic responsibilities and emotional burden due to anxiety about their loved ones’ work. The fact that sacrifices made by family members were not noticed by society, the anxiety they felt about their family’s physical health, the impact of hearing about traumatic experiences, and the failure of healthcare organisations to meet the needs of the HCWs all negatively affected the family members. Conclusions: We have an ethical responsibility to attend to the experiences and needs of the families of healthcare professionals. This study emphasises the experiences and needs of family members of healthcare professionals, which have hitherto been missing from the literature. Further research is needed to hear from more parents, siblings and friends, partners in same sex relationships, as well as children of HCWs, to explore the variety of family members and supporters’ experiences more fully. HIGHLIGHTS: • COVID19 has impacted families of HCWs as well as workers themselves. They have experienced more anxiety, increased practical burden, significant physical health risks and been exposed vicariously to workers’ traumatic experiences. We must ensure HCW families are better supported.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2057166
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • family members
  • healthcare workers
  • occupational trauma
  • qualitative
  • Secondary trauma
  • COVID-19
  • Health Personnel/psychology
  • Pandemics
  • Humans
  • Family
  • Child
  • United Kingdom/epidemiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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