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The impact of COVID-19 on palliative care workers across the world: A qualitative analysis of responses to open-ended questions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 March 2021

Tania Pastrana
Affiliation:
International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, Houston, TX Department of Palliative Medicine, Medical Faculty, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany
Liliana De Lima
Affiliation:
International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, Houston, TX
Katherine Pettus
Affiliation:
International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, Houston, TX
Alison Ramsey
Affiliation:
International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, Houston, TX
Genevieve Napier
Affiliation:
International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, Houston, TX
Roberto Wenk
Affiliation:
International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, Houston, TX Fundacion FEMEBA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Lukas Radbruch
Affiliation:
International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, Houston, TX University Hospital of Bonn, Helios Hospital Bonn/Rhein-Sieg, Bonn, Germany
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Objective

With over two million deaths and almost 100 million confirmed cases, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a “tsunami of suffering.” Health care workers, including palliative care workers, have been severely impacted. This study explores how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted palliative care workers around the world and describes the coping strategies they have adopted to face their specific situation.

Method

We conducted a qualitative analysis of written, unstructured comments provided by respondents to a survey of IAHPC members between May and June 2020. Free text was exported to MAX QDA, and a thematic analysis was performed by reading the comments and developing a coding frame.

Results

Seventy-seven palliative care workers from 41 countries submitted at least one written comment, resulting in a data corpus of 10,694 words and a total of 374 coded comments. Eight main themes are emerged from the analysis: palliative care development, workforce impact, work reorganization, palliative care reconceptualization, economic and financial impacts, increased risk, emotional impact, and coping strategies.

Significance of results

The pandemic has had a huge impact on palliative care workers including their ability to work and their financial status. It has generated increased workloads and placed them in vulnerable positions that affect their emotional well-being, resulting in distress and burnout. Counseling and support networks provide important resilience-building buffers. Coping strategies such as team and family support are important factors in workers’ capacity to adapt and respond. The pandemic is changing the concept and praxis of palliative care. Government officials, academia, providers, and affected populations need to work together to develop, and implement steps to ensure palliative care integration into response preparedness plans so as not to leave anyone behind, including health workers.

Type
Original Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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