The research team at Deakin University that conducted a large-scale study of the impacts of COVID-19 on Frontline Health Worker’s (FHW) mental health, have now concluded the project after three years.

The study involved in-depth surveys, interviews and quantitative research over the course of the three years, with a number of participants identifying as union members. The Union helped to actively promote the study.

It was one of the first Australian, and one of few studies globally, to investigate COVID-19’s mental health and wellbeing impacts on Frontline Health Workers.

The study has informed various professional guidelines adopted in public and private hospitals around the country, with state and federal health departments engaging with the findings and research team.

Key findings include:

  • Perceived and actual heightened risk of covid infection from the workplace remains a key risk factor for poorer mental health in FHW.
  • Perceived and actual risks relating to covid infection extend to the impact on social and family relationships i.e. ‘taking infection home and to the community’
  • Younger FHW were overall at higher
  • When not managed well by the employer, these perceived and actual risks lead to higher rates of burnout, desire to change roles, or desire to leave the profession.

The most effective strategies for managing FHW wellbeing and mental health included (from the FHW perspective):

  • Better supervision and support from leadership. Not just at the height of the pandemic, but ensuring it continues on an ongoing basis.
  • Evidence for FHW that their supervisors and leaders have undertaken training in how to organise work (e.g. rosters) and help manage the impacts of poor mental health, particularly when large-scale public health crises occur.
  • Support for supervisors trying to implement changes to support their staff, for example, guidance materials and dedicated training in psychosocial hazards, rostering etc

You can access three of the published academic articles from the study at these links:

“Did You Bring It Home with You?” A Qualitative Investigation of the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Victorian Frontline Healthcare Workers and Their Families. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 19, 4897..

“The prevalence of probable mental health disorders among hospital healthcare workers during COVID-19: A systematic review and meta-analysis” Journal of Affective Disorders.

“Key predictors of psychological distress and wellbeing in Australian frontline healthcare workers during COVID-19 (Omicron wave)” Frontiers in Psychology, 14.

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