Research Matters

Caring for the Caretakers

Caring for the Caretakers

Studying the impact on mental health of healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients

During the outbreak of diseases, frontline healthcare workers are faced with the most daunting task, as they not only have to expose themselves to the disease but also deal with the psychological burden of treating severely ill patients. While doctors are trained to manage stressful situations, the phenomenon of COVID-19 is unprecedented, and healthcare providers are risking their lives to treat an increasing number of patients for a disease for which there is no known cure. In the line of duty, several healthcare providers have themselves tested positive for the virus, and many have lost their lives, which adds to the mental stress that healthcare providers are facing globally.
While it is well established in the relevant literature that mental health needs increase significantly during such pandemics, the issue is seldom given the attention it deserves and is often addressed too late. To ensure that the mental health needs of healthcare providers dealing with COVID-19 in Qatar are properly addressed, a team of researchers has been awarded a research grant under QNRF’s Rapid Response Call titled, “Anxiety and Coping in HMC and PHCC Frontline Health Care Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic” (Project ID: RRC-8-015).
According to Dr. Amber Haque, the lead principal investigator of the project and Full Professor of Clinical Psychology at Doha Institute of Graduate Studies, the team was prompted to investigate the situation by their awareness of the stigma associated with mental health and the extent to which this affects service planning and patients’ access to care. While there are some services providing counseling to healthcare workers during this pandemic, the extent of social stigma, especially in the Middle East, prevents many from seeking such services. The reasons for this include concerns about confidentiality and the impact of seeking help on their job security. Moreover, the healthcare providers are currently too immersed in the delivery of their services to realize they may be suffering from burnout until it suddenly hits them.
Hence, the earlier this issue is addressed, the more quickly better services can be provided for healthcare providers to prevent them suffering from psychological stress and build on their areas of strength. To this end, the research team has identified reliable and valid instruments for measuring anxieties and coping responses of potential frontline healthcare worker participants. This ranges from doctors, nurses, and paramedics, amongst others, and explores the differences related to their age, gender, education, work experience, as well as other factors.
The scientific findings will not only enable the research team to get hard data on frontline workers but also develop specific treatment plans related to the needs of the research participants. Moreover, the outcome of this project will lay the basis for further research on studying anxiety and coping during pandemics around the world.



Previous Article Fighting an Infodemic during a Pandemic
Next Article Executive Director’s Message
«December 2023»