Peer Champion Support for Hospital Healthcare Workers during and after a Novel Coronavirus Outbreak: It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint
Experience from the 2003 SARS outbreak taught that hospital workers often experience chronic stress effects for months or years after such an event, including burnout, absenteeism, and interpersonal problems. We learned that supporting healthcare workers requires attention to the marathon of occupational stress, not just the sprint of dramatic stressors that occur while infections are dominating the news. At our hospital, we routinely provide a range of supportive resources for staff, which depend on their needs and often depend on staff actively seeking support. This study’s goal is to test if the well-being of hospital workers facing a novel coronavirus outbreak is improved by adding Peer Support Champions: an interdisciplinary team of professionals who actively monitor for early signs of heightened stress within clinical teams, liaise between staff and senior management to improve organizational responsiveness, and provide direct support and teaching (under the supervision of experts in resilience, infection control, and professional education). We will test the effectiveness of Enriched Support by rolling it out to different parts of the hospital in stages, comparing levels of burnout before and after the intervention reaches particular teams and units (this is called a stepped wedge design). By the end of the study, we will have provided Enriched Support to all of our clinical and research staff and many learners (> 6,000 people). We will test the effectiveness of the Peer Support Champions by measuring trends in burnout and other effects of stress over the course of the study in a subgroup of these hospital workers (~1000 people). We have assembled a team of experts in infection prevention and control, healthcare workers’ stress and resilience, and continuous professional education. Because occupational stress and burnout are very common in healthcare, we expect this work to produce knowledge that is valuable well beyond the current outbreak.