NUI Galway research project is aimed at understanding the mental health needs of Irish and Italian frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic
NUI Galway researchers in collaboration with the University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, are leading The Frontline Worker Support (FLoWS) project to develop guidelines for alleviating psychological distress in frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To inform these guidelines, the researchers are seeking Irish and Italian frontline healthcare workers who came into repeated contact with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients during the pandemic to share their experiences. This includes frontline workers of all professional backgrounds such as doctors, nurses, paramedics, cleaning or catering staff working in the health service, and levels of experience in their profession ranging from junior, intermediate and senior staff.
Recent findings (from a number of international studies) have indicated the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the mental health of frontline healthcare workers due to worries about contracting the virus and spreading it to loved ones, long working hours, and being unable to effectively treat patients due to limited treatment options.
In order for mental health practitioners to effectively address these symptoms, it is necessary to understand the risk factors for psychological stress (such as age, type of occupation and professional experience), the types of psychological distress symptoms being experienced, and the most effective methods for promoting resilience in healthcare workers. However, due to a scarcity of research, the specific mental health needs of frontline healthcare workers remain poorly understood.
Professor Brian McGuire, Professor of Clinical Psychology, NUI Galway, said: “As we will be living alongside COVID for some time, the development of guidelines to support the long-term psychological wellbeing of healthcare workers is crucial. We need healthcare workers to contribute to the project to ensure these guidelines will accurately reflect and address the worries and issues that they are experiencing as a result of the pandemic.”
The FLoWS project will comprise of two studies that will collect information concurrently over the coming weeks; an online survey will assess symptoms of psychological distress, personal and professional experiences throughout the pandemic, and insights into how psychological distress can be most effectively alleviate; and an interview study where researchers will meet virtually with healthcare workers to discuss their experiences in more depth.