COVID-19 and frontline healthcare workers study: working through the Omicron wave

January 25, 2023

COVID-19 infection worries and relational factors remain significant risk factors for psychological distress, while protective factors include better health status and rating of supervisor support for mental health, according to ongoing research conducted by Eastern Health and Deakin University to assess the mental health and wellbeing of frontline healthcare workers over time.

In early 2022, the project team invited frontline healthcare workers across emergency departments, intensive care units, COVID wards, hospital in the home, and aged care who have worked during the pandemic to complete a brief series of online tests. Preliminary results showed that workers had experienced concerning levels of psychological stress associated with lower wellbeing, COVID-19 worries and relationship stress during the pandemic. The team has since conducted further analysis on its data.

Findings indicate that due to psychological distress, 40.5 per cent of workers had at least one day out of role and 62.1 per cent had at least one day working at reduced capacity, which combined likely costs organisations on average between $967 to $1,482 per person per month during the Omicron wave.

Preliminary findings from interviews with frontline healthcare workers with family responsibilities have also shown that there has been increasing workplace demands and stress among workers since the start of the pandemic, across three time points between November 2020 and March 2022). Specifically:

  • workloads have increased over time and fears of contagion, which reduced in T2 following vaccination and increased confidence in infection control, have returned with new COVID-19 variants
  • with enduring strain, themes regarding workplace tension and conflict have emerged, specifically increased rates of conflict with the wider community and increased tension in the workplace
  • existing supports that were once relied on, such as collegial and familial support, have also been impacted in recent time points
  • lastly, due to these challenges many have cited various reasons to quit or change roles if they have not already done so.