Participation and engagement needs of home care rehabilitation professionals transitioning out of the COVID‑19 pandemic: A Pilot Study
CONTEXT | In early 2021, VHA Home HealthCare researchers Dr. Brydne Edwards and Dr. Emily King connected with Dr. Behdin Nowrouzi-Kia about a partnership to examine burnout and occupational stress among rehabilitation professionals (RPs) working at the organization. This proposal results from a collaboration to better understand how burnout and occupational stress may impact the participation and engagement of occupational therapists, physiotherapists, social workers, speech-language pathologists and dieticians working at VHA Home Healthcare. Our partnership shares a strong interest in supporting RPs at the organization.
GAPS | RPs at VHA Home Healthcare are frequently exposed to burnout, and occupational stress and these experiences have increased since the onset of the pandemic. We hypothesize that this workforce may experience occupational stress related to the fear of becoming infected with COVID‑19 or passing the virus on to loved ones and rapid clinical practice changes, increased workload demands and professional isolation. To effectively manage the mental health needs of these workers and support occupational engagement, organizations must develop policies, programs, services and practices designed specifically for public health crises such as the COVID‑19 pandemic.
OBJECTIVES | Workplace mental health is a significant concern for RPs working in Ontario. The objective of this research study is 1a) to examine the nature of burnout and occupational stress among RPs at VHA Home HealthCare transitioning out of the COVID‑19 pandemic and 1b) its impact on participation at work; and 2a) to understand RPs engagement transitioning out of the COVID‑19 pandemic and 2b) their lived-experiences with burnout and occupational stress working at VHA Home HealthCare.
METHOD | This study will use a sequential explanatory mixed-methods design. In the first phase, RPs will be asked to complete a confidential questionnaire about their self-reported sources of burnout, occupational stress, and their impact on their participation and engagement at work. In the second phase, RPs will be invited to participate in a confidential interview to elaborate on their perspectives and experiences living with burnout and occupational stress. RPs’ will also have an opportunity to describe the strategies they used to support their workplace mental health. These findings will inform strategies VHA Home HealthCare can adopt to build resilience, support the mental health of healthcare provides, promote workplace engagement/participation while maintaining successful clinical practices. The results will provide a basis for a larger study to extend the external validity of the findings across VHA Home HealthCare and expand the study’s scope across Canada and involve other organizations.
CONTRIBUTION | This collaboration will join academic expertise with field knowledge to translate study results into practical strategies that support the mental health of RPs at VHA Home HealthCare. This project will provide evidence for the organization to foster a safe, cohesive and inclusive work environment. This study can bolster the efficiency and effectiveness of health service delivery at VHA Home HealthCare by focusing on strategies to improve participation and engagement of the workforce. The collaboration between VHA Home HealthCare and the University of Toronto will produce high-quality research by allowing the research teams at both institutions to share experiences, data, and methods to provide the basis for new and important perspectives on existing practices in workplace mental health. For the trainee involved, this project will be an excellent opportunity to learn how to do interdisciplinary research in a meaningful and productive manner.