What Helps Doctors, Nursing Staff, and Emergency Crews Cope on the Job during the Corona Crisis?

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To identify the burdens on doctors, emergency crews, and other healthcare workers and the stress factors arising from extraordinary situations like the corona crisis, Heidelberg researchers will be conducting an online survey starting 8 May 2020. The survey is intended for all those who work with potentially or actually infected individuals and COVID-19 patients. It is also intended for nursing staff, laboratory staff, medical students with patient contact, ministers, and therapists. "We want to gather data on essential interim actions we can derive from their personal experiences. We also hope to draw conclusions for future training and continuing education," explains PD Dr Marie Ottilie Frenkel, stress researcher at Heidelberg University, who is conducting the study together with chief resident Dr Stefan Mohr, research associate at the Clinic for Anaesthesiology of Heidelberg University Hospital.

Studies on earlier epidemics such as SARS and MERS have shown that healthcare professionals are exposed to particular stressors, Dr Frenkel explains. "The stress load in the current crisis stems mainly from the high level of uncertainty," states the researcher, who teaches and conducts research at the Institute of Sports and Sports Sciences at Heidelberg University. To collect data from a wide sample about the current demands posed by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, an interdisciplinary work group under the direction of Dr Frenkel and Dr Mohr has developed an online survey with support from the Austrian Institute of Technology. Besides information on the specific work-related stressors, participants will also be asked to describe individual coping mechanisms. This involves, for example, the question of what helps them strengthen their ability to cope with stress and whether their training adequately prepared them in this respect.

An encouraging number of physicians and employees of hospitals, specialised corona clinics, and testing centres in the Rhine-Neckar region along with staff members of local aid organisations were recruited to participate in the first survey round in April. Emergency medicine practitioners from throughout Baden-Wuerttemberg and Bavaria also responded. For the second survey from 8 to 15 May, the investigators are hoping for responses from healthcare professionals working in clinical, preclinical, or outpatient facilities throughout Germany. Completing the survey takes 10 to 12 minutes. There will be another survey round from 29 May to 5 June 2020.


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