Healthcare workers attitudes to working during pandemic influenza: A qualitative study

Centre for Biomedical Ethics, The University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.
BMC Public Health (Impact Factor: 2.26). 03/2009; 9(1):56. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-9-56
Source: PubMed


Healthcare workers (HCWs) will play a key role in any response to pandemic influenza, and the UK healthcare system's ability to cope during an influenza pandemic will depend, to a large extent, on the number of HCWs who are able and willing to work through the crisis. UK emergency planning will be improved if planners have a better understanding of the reasons UK HCWs may have for their absenteeism, and what might motivate them to work during an influenza pandemic.This paper reports the results of a qualitative study that explored UK HCWs' views (n = 64) about working during an influenza pandemic, in order to identify factors that might influence their willingness and ability to work and to identify potential sources of any perceived duty on HCWs to work.
A qualitative study, using focus groups (n = 9) and interviews (n = 5).
HCWs across a range of roles and grades tended to feel motivated by a sense of obligation to work through an influenza pandemic. A number of significant barriers that may prevent them from doing so were also identified. Perceived barriers to the ability to work included being ill oneself, transport difficulties, and childcare responsibilities. Perceived barriers to the willingness to work included: prioritising the wellbeing of family members; a lack of trust in, and goodwill towards, the NHS; a lack of information about the risks and what is expected of them during the crisis; fear of litigation; and the feeling that employers do not take the needs of staff seriously. Barriers to ability and barriers to willingness, however, are difficult to separate out.
Although our participants tended to feel a general obligation to work during an influenza pandemic, there are barriers to working, which, if generalisable, may significantly reduce the NHS workforce during a pandemic. The barriers identified are both barriers to willingness and to ability. This suggests that pandemic planning needs to take into account the possibility that staff may be absent for reasons beyond those currently anticipated in UK planning documents. In particular, staff who are physically able to attend work may nonetheless be unwilling to do so. Although there are some barriers that cannot be mitigated by employers (such as illness, transport infrastructure etc.), there are a number of remedial steps that can be taken to lesson the impact of others (providing accommodation, building reciprocity, provision of information and guidance etc). We suggest that barriers to working lie along an ability/willingness continuum, and that absenteeism may be reduced by taking steps to prevent barriers to willingness becoming perceived barriers to ability.

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Available from: Jonathan Ives, Oct 10, 2015
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    • "Not all healthcare workers willingly accept the increased risk associated with their profession, but in a German study, physicians were more willing to work than those who were not in direct clinical care [10]. A qualitative study in the United Kingdom found that most physicians felt an obligation to work during a pandemic, though there were barriers to their willingness and ability to work [11]. Fear of infecting their families was a common concern, as well as barriers to finding childcare in order to continue working [11,12]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Effective pandemic responses rely on frontline healthcare workers continuing to work despite increased risk to themselves. Our objective was to investigate Alberta family physicians willingness to work during an influenza pandemic. Design: Cross-sectional survey. Setting: Alberta prior to the fall wave of the H1N1 epidemic. Participants: 192 participants from a random sample of 1000 Alberta family physicians stratified by region. Main Outcome Measures: Willingness to work through difficult scenarios created by an influenza epidemic. The corrected response rate was 22%. The most physicians who responded were willing to continue working through some scenarios caused by a pandemic, but in other circumstances less than 50% would continue. Men were more willing to continue working than women. In some situations South African and British trained physicians were more willing to continue working than other groups. Although many physicians intend to maintain their practices in the event of a pandemic, in some circumstances fewer are willing to work. Pandemic preparation requires ensuring a workforce is available. Healthcare systems must provide frontline healthcare workers with the support and resources they need to enable them to continue providing care.
    Asia Pacific Family Medicine 06/2013; 12(1):3. DOI:10.1186/1447-056X-12-3
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    • "An intervention study to look at the feasibility to promote safe precautionary practices, especially among high-risk groups, is essential [1,22]. It would also be useful to explore the prevailing challenges for prevention and preparedness among high-risk groups (poultry workers and butchers) by using qualitative techniques [29-31]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Avian influenza (AI) is a global public health threat. Understanding the knowledge that butchers have about it and the precautionary practices they take against it is crucial for designing future preparedness programs. This study aimed to identify the social determinants of knowledge and precautionary measures of AI among butchers in the Kathmandu district in Nepal. The study was based on a cross-sectional study design using structured interview questionnaires and checklists to observe social determinants and the precautionary measures of 120 butchers aged 15 years and above from the Kathmandu district. The majority of the respondents were male (69.2%) and more than half (53.3%) were from the age group of 25-39 years (mean: 31.08, SD: ±9.82). Nearly two-thirds (61.3%) of the respondents had a 'poor knowledge', and the remaining had 'some knowledge', about AI. More than half (55.4%) of the respondents were in the category of displaying 'poor practice' towards AI and the remaining half were in the 'satisfactory practice' category. None of the respondents had 'adequate knowledge' or displayed 'good practice'. The respondents in the >25 years of age group were less likely [OR 0.169; 95% CI (0.056-0.512)] compared to those in the <25 years age group to have a poor knowledge about AI; and the respondents with 'primary education' were more likely [OR 3.265; 95% CI (1.326-8.189)] to have a poor knowledge about AI as compared to those who had a secondary or above level of education. Respondents who did not know the correct definition of AI were more likely to follow poor practices [OR 4.265; 95% CI (1.193-15.242)]; and the respondents who did not know the risk groups associated with AI were also more likely to follow poor practices [OR 3.103; 95% CI (1.191-8.083)]. This study points out the need to address butchers to improve their knowledge of, and more importantly their compliance with, the precautionary measures to prevent avian influenza.
    Infectious Diseases of Poverty 06/2013; 2(1):10. DOI:10.1186/2049-9957-2-10 · 4.11 Impact Factor
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    • "Early detection and response is crucial for control on a global level. Infections in HCWs pose risks to patients [15] and HCWs need to feel protected to deliver an efficient and effective response, which public health experts must consider for preplanning response frameworks [3,20]. The resonance across countries in underfunded occupational health departments is worrying as is the poor understanding of the risk and consequences of nosocomial outbreaks. "
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    ABSTRACT: Hospitals are often the epicentres of newly circulating infections. Healthcare workers (HCWs) are at high risk of acquiring infectious diseases and may be among the first to contract emerging infections. This study aims to explore European HCWs' perceptions and attitudes towards monitoring their absence and symptom reports for surveillance of newly circulating infections. A qualitative study with thematic analysis was conducted using focus group methodology. Forty-nine hospital-based HCWs from 12 hospitals were recruited to six focus groups; two each in England and Hungary and one each in Germany and Greece. HCWs perceived risk factors for occupationally acquired infectious diseases to be 1.) exposure to patients with undiagnosed infections 2.) break-down in infection control procedures 3.) immuno-naïvety and 4.) symptomatic colleagues. They were concerned that a lack of monitoring and guidelines for infectious HCWs posed a risk to staff and patients and felt employers failed to take a positive interest in their health. Staffing demands and loss of income were noted as pressures to attend work when unwell. In the UK, Hungary and Greece participants felt monitoring staff absence and the routine disclosure of symptoms could be appropriate provided the effectiveness and efficiency of such a system were demonstrable. In Germany, legislation, privacy and confidentiality were identified as barriers. All HCWs highlighted the need for knowledge and structural improvements for timelier recognition of emerging infections. These included increased suspicion and awareness among staff and standardised, homogenous absence reporting systems. Monitoring absence and infectious disease symptom reports among HCWs may be a feasible means of surveillance for emerging infections in some settings. A pre-requisite will be tackling the drivers for symptomatic HCWs to attend work.
    BMC Public Health 07/2011; 11(1):541. DOI:10.1186/1471-2458-11-541 · 2.26 Impact Factor
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