Funding extension for research into the impact of COVID on nurse and midwife wellbeing

Researchers at a number of UK institutions will benefit from a funding extension for their work around the impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants.

The Colt Foundation has awarded nearly £60,000 to a team of experts, allowing them to continue their research into how the pandemic has impacted the mental health of healthcare professionals.

The funding will enable further interviews to be conducted as part of the ICON (Impact of COVID on Nurses) interview study, with the aim of identifying potential mitigations.

The University of Surrey has received the funding for its project, which also involves researchers from the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care at King’s College London (KCL), Cardiff University, the University of Plymouth, and the University of Warwick.

The ICON interview study originally began in 2020 and involved interviews with health care assistants, registered nurses, registered midwives, and those re-deployed to COVID areas, who shared their experience of working during the pandemic.

According to King’s, the interviews often revealed ’emotional distress like anxiety, frustration, guilt and inner turmoil’ and ‘high levels of burnout and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) were reported’.

The findings have since been shared widely, including at the Royal College of Nursing annual conference in September 2021.

As the pandemic is not yet over, the research team wants to extend the study and interview the same nurses twice more to ‘identify how the changing characteristics of the pandemic are altering staff wellbeing over time’ and find out which types of support and interventions are helping.

More professionals will also be invited to be interviewed to ‘ensure the experiences of other groups not in the original sample have an opportunity to share their experiences’, including care home staff, children’s nurses, more minority ethnic nurses and student nurses.

Ruth Harris, Professor of Health Care for Older Adults, Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care at KCL, said: “It’s an incredible privilege to interview nursing and care home staff about their experiences of working during COVID-19. To hear them talk about how they’ve delivered care to patients and relatives in such challenging circumstances, and how they have supported and been supported by their peers has been amazing.

“But it’s also been heart-breaking to hear of their fears about safety for themselves and their families, dealing with so many patients dying and feeling abandoned by managers. This and other projects in the ICON study are a way for us to support nurses during the pandemic by helping make their experiences visible to as many people as possible.”