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COVIC-HA Study

Coronavirus in Victorian
Healthcare and Aged
care workers study

About COVIC-HA

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted all Victorians, given the prolonged lockdowns that have been required. Since the start of the pandemic, individuals working in health care and aged care have shouldered a large burden, making it crucial to monitor and support their health and wellbeing.

The COVIC-HA project commenced in March 2021 and has now enrolled more than 1000 Victorian health care workers (HCW)s across hospital, ambulance, aged care and primary care settings. Extending into the year 2022, survey data is being collected over time to monitor mental health changes, impacts on physical health, and workplace responses to support HCWs. Workplace preparedness and responses are also being investigated in order to identify strategies that mitigate adverse outcomes.

Findings are being communicated to the Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, WorkSafe Victoria, Workers Union, Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation and other key stakeholders to inform evidence-based responses that are matched to the needs of HCWs and safeguard their health and wellbeing in the context of COVID-19 and future health threats.

Funded by:

Study protocols

COVIC-HA will recruit workers through participating healthcare organisations including Ambulance Victoria, hospitals within the Monash Partners network, and primary care and aged care networks. Invitations to participate in the study will be sent directly to workers by their organisations.

This study has received ethics approval by the Alfred Hospital Ethics Committee under the Victorian Streamlined Ethical Review Process (Project Number: 68086).

Results

Results and recommendations will be fed back to the funding agencies and study participants. Check back here regularly for reports and publications.

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Progress reports

The COVIC-HA study is underway and has successfully recruited over 1000 Victorian healthcare workers (HCW) across varying workplaces and professions, from hospital-based clinical staff including doctors and nurses, through to ambulance workers, administrative staff, and aged care workers. Led by infectious disease physicians Professor Karin Leder and Dr Sarah McGuinness, together with a team of experts from hospitals, Ambulance Victoria, and primary care, the study aims to examine how HCWs across different sectors are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and to capture their experiences of anxiety, depression, and stress over time.

In order to achieve this, a mixed-methods approach has been adopted through online surveys focusing on the physical and psychological impacts on workers, as well as via semi-structured interviews scoping both organisational and worker perspectives on the major challenges being faced by healthcare and aged care workers, and on identifying mitigation strategies.

The first wave of quantitative survey responses was collected between 7 May and 18 July 2021, exploring COVID impacts on workload and on mental health, past and current COVID-19 infection status, and quarantine/furlough history. Participation rates were highest among workers in hospital settings, with nurses and non-clinical support staff best representing the occupational groups across all settings. Preliminary results from these surveys have shown that nearly a quarter of respondents have experienced symptoms of moderate-severe depression, and approximately one in seven have experienced moderate-severe anxiety. Less than one third of workers recorded high levels of optimism. Prior COVID-19 infection or at least one episode of quarantine were reported by one in five respondents, with heightened levels of depression, anxiety and emotional exhaustion experienced among this group.

Interviews with workers and organisational key informants have also recently been completed. Emergent challenges include fear of infection, concerns regarding impacts on patient care, difficulties dealing with frequent policy changes, and the importance of providing streamlined up to date communication. Additionally, respondents revealed optimism regarding the use of technology in healthcare settings, citing greater uptake of telehealth consults and provision of e-scripts as silver linings to the pandemic, as well as a sense of shared adversity and togetherness amongst colleagues.

Further analyses are ongoing, so stay tuned! Additionally, ongoing quantitative and qualitative data capture will enable continued monitoring of COVID-19 impacts as the pandemic evolves through different stages and brings new challenges. Findings and lessons learnt will be disseminated to inform improvements in organisational and policy responses to the current pandemic and to future pandemics.

Resources

Healthcare and aged care workers (HCWs) are facing extraordinary circumstances and pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is understandable that you may be feeling afraid, worried, anxious and overwhelmed during these times.

If participating in this study causes you any discomfort or distress or has raised concerns about how you have been feeling, we encourage you to seek support. You can seek support from your GP, another trusted health professional, your workplace Employee Assistance Program, or any of the support services listed below.

Lifeline

Lifeline provides free around the clock crisis support and suicide prevention services. You can call them on 13 11 14 (available 24 hours a day), text them on 0477 13 11 14 (12pm to midnight AEST), or chat online via https://www.lifeline.org.au/crisis-chat/ (from 7pm to midnight AEST).

Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue provides free support for your mental wellbeing. Trained counsellors are available around the clock to provide counselling and useful information to help support your mental health and wellbeing. You can call the dedicated Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service on 1800 512 348 (available 24 hours a day) or chat online via https://cmwssonline.beyondblue.org.au/ (24/7).

Black Dog Institute

The Black Dog Institute provides a range of resources for health professionals on their website:

https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/resources-support/coronavirus-resources-for-anxiety-stress/coronavirus-resources-for-health-professionals/

DRS4DRS

DRS4DRS provide support and resources for doctors and medical students through a network of doctors’ health advisory services across Australia. See https://www.drs4drs.com.au/ for details.

Nurse & Midwife Support

Nurse & Midwife support is a 24/7 national support service for nurses and midwives providing access to confidential advice and referral.

Headspace

Headspace provides support for young people aged 12-25 years.

Head to Health

Head to Health is an Australian Government initiative that provides access to trusted information and digital resources to help support your mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVIC-HA Investigators

COVIC-HA draws upon the diverse expertise across Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine and complementary experience from trusted research collaborators from Ambulance Victoria, Alfred and Monash Health and other areas within Monash University.

Our investigators include experts in infectious diseases, mental health, biostatistics, epidemiological modelling, implementation science, occupational medicine and health economics. They also have experience and access to networks across trauma, intensive care, rehabilitation, primary care, allied health, aged care and first responders.

Executive team

  • Prof Allen Cheng

    Professor, Infectious Diseases Epidemiology, Monash University; Director, Infection Prevention and Healthcare Epidemiology Unit, Alfred Health.

  • Prof Andrew Forbes

    Head, Biostatistics Unit, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University.

  • Prof Carol Hodgson

    Head, Division of Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University; Deputy Director, Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Research Centre, Monash University; Specialist ICU Physiotherapist, The Alfred.

  • Prof Jane Fisher

    Director, Global and Women’s Health and Head, Division of Social Sciences, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University.

  • Prof Karin Leder

    Head, Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Unit, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University; Head, Travel Medicine and Immigrant Health Services, Victorian Infectious Disease Service, Royal Melbourne Hospital.

  • Dr Sarah McGuinness

    Lecturer, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University; Consultant Infectious Diseases Physician, Alfred Health.

  • Prof Malcolm Sim

    Head, Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Monash University.

  • Prof Sophia Zoungas

    Head, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University.

  • Josphin Johnson

    Project Manager

  • Owen Eades

    Project Officer

Scientific leadership team

  • Prof Peter Cameron

    Academic Programs Director Emergency and Trauma Centre, The Alfred Hospital.

  • A/Prof Peter Hunter

    Head, Geriatric Medicine Unit and Clinical Program Director, Rehabilitation, Aged and Community Care, Alfred Health; A/Prof Aged Care, Monash University.

  • Dr Jessica Kasza

    Senior Lecturer, Research Methodology, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University.

  • Dr Helen Kelsall

    Senior Research Fellow, Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University.

  • Dr Maggie Kirkman

    Senior Research Fellow, Global and Women’s Health, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University.

  • Prof Danny Liew

    Deputy Head of School (Education and Enterprise) and Co-Director of the Centre of Cardiovascular Research and Education (CCRE), School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University; Consultant Physician, Alfred Health.

  • Prof Grant Russell

    Professor, Primary Care Research and Director, Southern Academic Primary Care Research Unit, Monash University.

  • A/Prof Philip Russo

    Director of Nursing Research, Cabrini Health; Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University.

  • Prof Helen Skouteris

    Monash Warwick Professor in Health and Social Care Improvement and Implementation Science.

  • Prof Karen Smith

    Director, Centre for Research and Evaluation, Ambulance Victoria; Adjunct Professor, School of Public Health, Monash University.

  • Prof Helena Teede

    Executive Director Monash Partners Academic Health Research Translation Centre; Director Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation, School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine, Monash University; Endocrinologist Monash Health.

  • A/Prof James Trauer

    Head of Epidemiological Modelling, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University.

  • Prof Andrew Udy

    Deputy Director (Research), Department of Intensive Care & Hyperbaric Medicine, The Alfred; Professor & Deputy Director, Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Research Centre, Monash University.

  • Dr Kasha Singh

    Consultant Infectious Diseases Physician, Peninsula Health; Researcher, Doherty Institute.

  • Prof Rhonda Stuart

    Infectious Diseases Physician Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Epidemiology, Monash Health Infection Prevention Committee, Monash Health Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, School of Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University

Advisory committee

  • Prof Stephen Jane

    Foundation Dean, Sub-Faculty of Translation Medicine and Public Health, Monash University; Director of Research, Alfred Hospital.

  • David Eden

    Assistant Secretary, Health Workers’ Union

  • A/Prof Deborah Friedman

    Deputy Public Health Commander and Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control Advice and Response (IPCAR), Department of Health

  • Libby Muir

    Professional Officer, Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation (Vic Branch)

Contact us

If you would like more information about this study, please contact the study team via phone +61 402 190 140 or email covicha@monash.edu.

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