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An ongoing national study hopes to reveal how the nursing workforce should be supported after COVID-19. Professor Daniel Kelly explains the research

Photo of Professor Daniel Kelly, RCN Chair of Nursing Research at Cardiff University’s School of Healthcare Sciences

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Nursing and Midwifery workforce (ICON) study is a national survey led by the RCN Research Society to evaluate the impact of the current pandemic on the UK nursing and midwifery workforce. The survey is being undertaken at three time-points: prior to the COVID-19 peak, during the peak, and afterwards. Comparative results from the first two time points are now available, and we hope they will inform future workforce support strategies.

A total of 4,063 members of the nursing and midwifery workforce participated in the second phase of the research. We discovered that 88% of them continue to worry about risks to family members during COVID-19 due to their clinical role. Staff also worry about the risks to their own health.

Respondents also reported ongoing depression, anxiety, stress and emerging signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. However, few have accessed services to support their health and psychological wellbeing. Only 12% reported using NHS wellbeing apps (such as Unmind, Headspace, Sleepio, Daylight), while just 17% of staff that reported having access to time-out rooms had used them.

Compared with the first phase, PPE availability appears to have improved, but 40% of staff reported that the correct PPE was still not always available. Perceptions towards infection control and prevention training delivery have improved too, but still fewer than 50% were confident in the training received.

Before sending out the third survey we are carrying out interviews with some respondents to gain more insight into their experiences and support needs.

As we move forward it is crucial that an evidence-informed approach is adopted by employers and government to support the nursing workforce. The ICON study suggests that employers will need to be open to a number of different approaches given the range of support needs that may arise.

We’ll be sharing updates and asking for participants for the third phase via our Twitter account @RCNResearchSoc

Professor Daniel Kelly FRCN RN PhD is RCN Chair of Nursing Research at Cardiff University’s School of Healthcare Sciences and a member of the RCN Research Society

Read more about the results from the second stage of the ICON study here. The research team also includes Professor Ruth Harris, Chair of the RCN Research Society, and RCN President Professor Anne Marie Rafferty

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