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A new study will look at how frontline health workers have been impacted by the coronavirus crisis

A study is being launched into the long-term physical and mental effects for health workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Accredited exercise physiologist Jaclyn Murphy has been missing face-to-face interactions with her clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She has been based in Melbourne at Up Well Health collective and described the recent pandemic as confronting.

“It’s been really challenging having to wear PPE, face masks and face shields and adapting the way we do things with clients,” she said.

“Definitely feeling really tired and fatigued at the end of the day, definitely moreso than we normally would and definitely quite stressed and overwhelmed at times too.”

Joint research announced this week will examine how well workplaces were prepared for and responded to the risks in order to protect staff from harm during the COVID-19 crisis.

The research will involve Monash University, Cabrini Health, Ambulance Victoria and the Alfred hospital.

More than 1500 workers including hospital staff, first responders, primary care and aged care workers along with participants from other health sectors will be recruited.

Professor Karin Leder, an infectious disease physician from Monash University, said every health sector has had to implement some workplace changes during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is a fair amount of news already on the impacts on hospital workers, ambulance workers,aged care workers and on GPs, in every sector there has been enormous impacts,” she said.

Professor Leder said it’s important to monitor this stressful period to understand workers’ psychological health.

The study will focus on Victorians for 12 months.

“I think that there are lots of learnings that may be translatable nationally but I also think we know, health care systems work differently in different jurisdictions therefore I think there would be definite merit in looking across jurisdictions,” Professor Leder said.

Fatigue, stress and infection risk

There have been reports healthcare workers around the world are suffering from stress, exhaustion and the risk of contagion in hospitals.

Images of staff with bruised faces from wearing protective shields and other personal equipment have become a powerful visual of the pandemic.

Staff will be questioned as part of the study and researchers will also talk to workplaces about what systems they have in place.


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Stephanie Corsetti

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