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Home > What psychological supports are required to assist health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Ryan, Pauline and Lean, Brendan, eds. Clarke, Helen (2020) What psychological supports are required to assist health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic? Dublin: Health Service Executive.

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The psychological needs of health workers may be very different to those of the general public: through their work roles, HCWs are exposed to specific risks and stress-generating scenarios not experienced by other sectors or the general public. The risk to the mental health of health workers in the current pandemic has been clearly identified in the literature13, 17 ; several studies have identified those groups that might be at particular risk such as female29, 34, younger staff members32 and those working directly with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients34, 35. Some studies have also suggested that HCWs with less clinical experience, including final year students fast-tracked into service during the pandemic, may also be at greater risk of developing mental health problems36, 50 ; while another study suggests the contrary ¾ that greater experience brings with it a greater acknowledgement of the severity of the disease and, therefore, an increased risk of anxiety and stress36 . While most of the literature concurs that those on the frontline in direct contact with COVID-19 patients experience the greatest levels of stress and anxiety, several studies have demonstrated that non-frontline HCWs including non-clinical staff are also in need of psychological support20, 37, 54, 61.

Among the main risk factors for stress and anxiety are shortage of PPE and other vital equipment12, 21, 22, 39; concerns about family members12, 22, 32; physical deprivation such as lack of food and rest 9; poor sleep quality57, 59, 60, 65; too much or too little information22; bereavement12; stigma25 ; and moral or psychological injury20, 58......

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