The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on critical care healthcare professionals' work practices and wellbeing: A qualitative study

Rosalind Elliott*, Liz Crowe, Wendy Pollock, Naomi E. Hammond

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background
Burnout and other psychological comorbidities were evident prior to the COVID-19 pandemic for critical care healthcare professionals (HCPs) who have been at the forefront of the health response. Current research suggests an escalation or worsening of these impacts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Objectives
The objective of this study was to undertake an in-depth exploration of the impact of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic on the wellbeing of HCPs working in critical care.

Methods
This was a qualitative study using online focus groups (n = 5) with critical care HCPs (n = 31, 7 medical doctors and 24 nurses) in 2021: one with United Kingdom–based participants (n = 11) and four with Australia-based participants (n = 20). Thematic analysis of qualitative data from focus groups was performed using Gibbs framework.

Findings
Five themes were synthesised: transformation of anxiety and fear throughout the pandemic, the burden of responsibility, moral distress, COVID-19 intruding into all aspects of life, and strategies and factors that sustained wellbeing during the pandemic. Moral distress was a dominant feature, and intrusiveness of the pandemic into all aspects of life was a novel finding.

Conclusions
The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted critical care HCPs and their work experience and wellbeing. The intrusiveness of the pandemic into all aspects of life was a novel finding. Moral distress was a predominate feature of their experience. Leaders of healthcare organisations should ensure that interventions to improve and maintain the wellbeing of HCPs are implemented.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Critical Care
Early online date11 Oct 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Oct 2022

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