Research to examine emotional well-being of physicians, nurses during pandemic

A former University of Alberta professor is leading a research project examining the emotional well-being of healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jason Harley, a psychologist who is currently an assistant professor at McGill University’s Department of Surgery and a member of the university’s Institute for Health Sciences Education, said the goal of the research is to find ways to better support hospital-based physicians and nurses during this crisis.

“There’s a lot of added stress, a lot of added factors associated with trying to rapidly and effectively adapt protocols — especially those in hospitals — to deal with COVID-19,” Harley said.

“In a time like this, where we need our healthcare professionals and we need them at their best, it’s important we do everything we can to support them.”

Harley said feelings of burnout and emotional exhaustion have been well-documented in healthcare professionals but this research is different because of the nature of the pandemic.

“It’s a very new type of disease that we’re dealing with. This is leading to, again, a lot of rapid protocol development and innovation that goes on in hospitals,” Harley said.

The aim of the research is to look at what currently exists in terms of personal sources of support, such as family and friends, institutional supports within a hospital as well as other methods of coping.

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“What kinds of things are they trying to do to feel better? To deal with that stress and to avoid those many sources of stress turning into psychological distress,” Harley said.

There have been some instances of physicians in the United States on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus dying by suicide.

The first portion of the research will focus on the McGill University Health Centre Hospital Network. Funding for that was provided by the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity and includes a research team of Drs. Montreuil, Lou, Feldman, Fried, Bhanji, Drouin and Lavoie-Tremblay.

Pending funding, a national survey could come to fruition in the next couple months.

If you’re interested in the research, you can reach out Harley at [email protected]

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts, Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868, and the Trans Lifeline 1-877-330-6366 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

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