Investigating the mental health and resiliency of key Canadian health professionals involved in primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention amid the COVID‑19 pandemic: A qualitative study to identify and understand work stressors among medical laboratory technologists, pharmacists, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists, and lessons learned to optimize quality of health care
Canadian health care workers have felt the mental health impact of COVID-19. However, little is known about key health care providers who have been instrumental in the fight against the pandemic in hospitals, laboratories, and outpatient settings, such as medical laboratory technologists (MLT) and assistants (MLTA), pharmacists, and rehabilitation specialists (i.e., occupational therapists and physiotherapists). In fact, there is limited research on them pre-pandemic. However, what we know is with increased workload and stress, they have higher rates of burnout, sick leaves, and errors. These outcomes affect our health care system and patient safety. Therefore, we began with initial studies based out of Ontario. One was a mix-method study (questionnaire and focus groups) examining the psychosocial well-being of MLTs and MLTAs. The others were qualitative studies where we interviewed pharmacists to learn about their stressors and resiliency. The results showed that work stressors have been occurring well before the pandemic but have been felt to a greater extent, especially among caregivers. Also, it highlighted these groups’ important role in supporting Canada’s most vulnerable people, like older adults and patients with multiple health conditions. They also offered strategies to continue supporting vulnerable patients during lockdowns. We aim to expand our work to a national level based on these initial findings and include rehabilitation specialists. We will conduct semi-structured focus groups with employees from each occupational group through our established partnerships across Canada. We will explore common occupational stressors and discuss the ‘lessons learned’ while working during the pandemic to improve services across the country. We will analyze the data and provide key recommendations to help inform policies and improve health care quality across the country.