Examining how the pandemic affects Southwestern Ontario's frontline hospital workers

A team from Lawson Health Research Institute will examine the unique personal and professional impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on frontline hospital workers in Southwestern Ontario. The region’s frontline hospital workers are invited to participate in an online survey to share their experiences during the public health emergency. The goal is to understand impacts unique to our region in order to develop strategies that address the needs of hospital workers. 

“It’s crucial to understand the impact of this pandemic on frontline hospital workers who often face difficult decisions, including risking personal safety to care for patients and the community,” explains Dr. Kimia Honarmand, Lawson Adjunct Scientist and Critical Care Physician at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). “Experiences are likely to vary across the province and country based on local circumstances. It’s important we hear the unique perspectives of those in our region.”

The team will recruit health care professionals from hospitals across Southwestern Ontario. Participants will be asked to complete one short survey with questions about their perceptions, causes of stress and coping strategies during the pandemic. The team hopes results can be used to identify strategies that address informational, training and support needs.

In addition to worries about personal safety, the team notes that frontline workers are faced with concerns about rapidly evolving information, patient surges and depletion of resources like ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE). They suspect social media may play a role in compounding these fears. 

“Compared with past outbreaks like SARS, today’s digital age provides a wealth of on-demand information and the majority is unverified,” says Dr. Honarmand. “While social media can be a place of solidarity and connection, it can also contribute to the spread of misinformation and fear.”

The researchers also suspect that public health measures like physical distancing, while crucial to controlling the spread of disease, may contribute to a loss of social support systems. 

“Taken together, these challenges can lead to stress, anxiety and burnout,” says Carol Young-Ritchie, Executive Vice President, Chief Nursing Officer and Pandemic Incident Management Team Co-Lead at LHSC. “Hearing directly from those on the frontline can help guide hospital administrators and professional organizations in better supporting our people, both during the current pandemic and in future public health emergencies.”

Frontline hospital workers in Southwestern Ontario can learn more and access the survey at https://redcap.lawsonresearch.ca/surveys/?s=E9KKL3CXYE