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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.
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.
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.
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