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How have covid-19 prevention measures affected professionals working at nursing homes?

A survey of nursing home health professionals

Catarina Santos-Marques, ciTechCare, Polytechnic of Leiria; Catarina Mangas, CICS-NOVA.PLeiria – iACT, CI&DEI, ESECS, Polytechnic of Leiria; Tânia Marques, CARME, ESTG, Polytechnic of Leiria; Ana Paula Gil, CICS-NOVA, NOVA-FCSH; Nelson Campos Ramalho, BRU-ISCTE; Sónia Gonçalves Pereira, ciTechCare, Polytechnic of Leiria;
Call to support survey-based projects on the social impact of Covid-19 in Portugal

The impact of covid-19 on older people in nursing homes has been thoroughly researched, but less is known about the impact on its health professionals. To protect nursing homes’ fragile population, strict infection prevention and control (IPC) measures were implemented practically overnight. An online survey was conducted between March and May 2021 to Portuguese Social Security registered nursing home professionals about the impact of this sudden change. Results show that training was essential in helping them cope. Direct care workers were the most impacted in their working conditions but experienced less fear and fewer negative emotions than other nursing home professionals.
Key points
  • 1
       An online survey was conducted between March and May 2021 to Portuguese Social Security registered nursing home professionals, taken by 458 professionals: 25 nurses, 287 professional staff members, 67 managers, and 79 direct care workers. Respondents were mostly Portuguese women, and their average age was 41 years. One third reported having had covid-19, and the majority of these indicated that they had been infected at work.
  • 2
       Respondents considered infection prevention and control (IPC) measures of paramount importance to help them feel safer and reduce their risk of infection. Despite difficulties in applying them, the majority plan to keep them after the pandemic.
  • 3
       Direct care workers reported feeling safer and being less affected by negative emotions during the pandemic than managers and professional staff members. In supporting feelings of safety, training was reported to be more important than the actual application of IPC measures.
  • 4
       Respondents reported that physical distancing and the use of masks greatly hindered face-to-face communication, but only 15% respondents thought that they had a negative effect on care. Managers reported that communication with people outside the institution was of poorer quality than before the pandemic.
  • 5
       Working conditions worsened mainly for direct care workers during the pandemic, with substantially more working hours and rotating and consecutive shifts, as well as reduced rest. Professional staff and managers were less affected.
  • 6
       Respondents reported major disruptions in their family lives (separate meals and bedrooms) and social life (avoiding public spaces and social interactions, quitting volunteer activities) with an overall decrease in the expression of physical affection.

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