Background: COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the wellbeing of healthcare workers, with quantitative studies identifying increased stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and PTSD in a wide range of settings. Limited qualitative data so far has offered in-depth details concerning what underlies these challenges, but none provide comprehensive comparison across different healthcare systems. Objective: To explore qualitative findings relating to healthcare worker distress from two different countries to understand the nuanced similarities and differences with respect to the sources and impact of distress relating to COVID-19. Method: A comparative interpretive thematic analysis was carried out between two qualitative data sets examining healthcare workers’ experiences of distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data from Canada and the UK were collected in parallel and analyzed in an iterative, collaborative process. Results: A number of sources of distress cut across both study settings including concerns about safety and patient care, challenges at home or in one’s personal life, communication issues, work environment, media and public perception, and government responses to the pandemic. These sit on a spectrum from individual to institutional sources and were mutually reinforcing. Our analysis also suggested that common mechanisms such as exacerbations in uncertainty, hypervigilance, and moral injury underpinned these sources, which contributed to how they were experienced as distressing. Conclusion: This is the first international collaboration utilising qualitative data to examine this pressing issue. Despite differences in the political, social, health service, and pandemic-related context, the sources and mechanisms of distress experienced by healthcare workers in Canada and the UK were remarkably similar. HIGHLIGHTS This international comparative qualitative study explores how mechanisms that lead to distress are shared across different geographies and cultures, even as the local context shapes the sources of distress themselves.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The Toronto study was funded by the MSH-UHN AMO Innovation Fund [grant number MSU-21-001]. Suze G. Berkhout is supported by the University of Toronto Academic Scholar Award. Michael A. P. Bloomfield is supported by the UK Research and Innovation [grant number MR/V025945/1]. The Toronto team thanks Ms. Alison Seto and Ms. Carol Capristan for their administrative support of the UHN COVID CARES program and evaluation. The UK team would like to thank all the members of the COVID Trauma Response Expert Reference Group who contributed to the development of the interview guide and provided further feedback and validity checks of findings. Both the Toronto and UK teams would like to thank all the healthcare workers who gave up their time and shared their experiences with us, during a very challenging time in the COVID pandemic.
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
- healthcare workers
- mental health
- Health Personnel
- Qualitative Research
- United Kingdom/epidemiology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health