Study Examines Safety Perception Among Healthcare Workers During the Pandemic

Protecting healthcare workers (HCWs) from exposure to SARS-CoV-2 during patient care is central to managing the current pandemic. Higher levels of trust in personal protective equipment (PPE) and infection prevention and control (IPC) strategies have been previously related to lower levels of emotional exhaustion, yet little is known on how to achieve such a perception of safety. Ehrenzeller, et al. (2022) sought to identify institutional actions, strategies and policies related to HCWs’ safety perception during the early phase of the pandemic at a tertiary care center in Switzerland by interviewing HCWs from different clinics, professions, and positions.

For this qualitative study, 36 face-to-face semi-structured interviews were performed. Interviews were based on a guide that addressed the perception of institutional strategies and policies during the first phase of the pandemic in March 2020. The participants included doctors (n = 19) and nurses (n = 17) in senior and non-senior positions from eight clinics in the University Hospital Basel, Switzerland, all involved in patient care. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim.

Five recurring themes were identified to affect HCWs’ perception of their safety during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic: (1) transparency and clarity of information, (2) communication on the availability of PPE (with the provision of information alone increasing the feeling of safety even if supplies of PPE were reported as low), (3) uniformity and consistency of guidelines, (4) digital resources to support face-to-face teaching (although personal information transfer is still being considered superior in terms of strengthening safety perception) and (5) support and appreciation for the work performed.

This study identifies institutional policies and actions influencing HCWs’ safety perception during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the most important of which is the factor of transparent communication. This knowledge reveals potential areas of action critical to improving preparedness and management in hospitals faced with an infectious disease threat.

Reference: Ehrenzeller S, et al. A qualitative study on safety perception among healthcare workers of a tertiary academic care center during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control. Vol. 11, article number 30 (2022).