Healthcare professionals’ attitudes towards self-care since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic

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In a recent study posted to Research Square*, researchers explored how views/attitudes of health/social care professionals on self-care changed during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Study: How has COVID-19 changed health and social care professionals
Study: How has COVID-19 changed health and social care professionals' attitudes to self-care? A mixed methods research study. Image Credit: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

*Important notice: Research Square publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

Background

The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant changes in how healthcare and well-being services were accessed worldwide, with many services adopting remote models following temporary restrictions on in-person care. As such, self-care became the mainstay of services, particularly during lockdowns, to curb the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

There has been a rapid response from service providers in the United Kingdom (UK) to incorporate self-care into the mainstream. Evidence supports that self-care can augment individuals’ health and lives while minimizing the pressure on the limited resources of the National Health Service (NHS). Public surveys revealed significant changes in personal views on the need to self-care due to COVID-19. Nonetheless, there is limited data on how social care and healthcare professionals view self-care.

About the study

In the present study, researchers investigated how the practices and attitudes of social care and healthcare workers about self-care changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. They employed a mixed methodology of cross-sectional online surveys and interviews with doctors, pharmacists, nurses, social prescribers, and others from the healthcare and social care setting.

The online survey was voluntary and accessible to anyone with the link. The study team provided the survey link to potential participants, including their personal and professional networks. The electronic survey consisted of 27 items. Responses were anonymized with unique IDs. Demographic data such as age, sex, occupation, ethnicity, and postal codes were captured. Changes in the delivery of care as a result of COVID-19 were queried.

Responses were scored on a five-point Likert scale. Further, in-depth interviews were conducted from July 28 to September 8, 2021, for select participants. The objectives of the interviews were to understand participants’ views on self-care as the primary mode of care, perceived barriers to practicing self-care, and examine changes in attitudes toward self-care as a result of COVID-19.

Findings

Overall, 304 respondents completed the survey. Most subjects were females (78%) and White (79%). Over 64% of respondents worked in the setting of general practice. Approximately 16% of participants were doctors; many were general practitioners. Pharmacy staff comprised 40% of respondents. Improving general well-being and making healthy lifestyle choices were consistently suggested for promoting self-care among service users.

The proportion of healthcare workers noting self-care was very important increased during the pandemic. More than 84% of participants were highly likely to recommend self-care during the pandemic. Over 75% of participants believed they had the proficiency and resources to promote self-care, while only 28.5% observed that their service users had the resources and competency for self-care.

Respondents reported an increase in using technology during the pandemic. Most participants (96.7%) indicated they would continue to signpost service users to self-care resources even post-pandemic. Nine participants were personally interviewed. Most interviewees deemed self-care fundamental to healthy living but noted that pre-COVID-19 models of care did not always encourage personal empowerment.

They acknowledged that limited access to services during lockdowns and long isolation periods meant patients had to accept self-care. In some interviews, participants cautioned on exacerbations instead of solutions with self-care. Interviewees observed that the pandemic should be taken as an opportunity to be leveraged, but professional education was also necessary to make the most of it.

Conclusions

To summarize, most healthcare professionals indicated they would recommend self-care as a means of personal empowerment and help to lower the burden on NHS resources. The findings revealed how participants significantly changed their views on self-care during COVID-19. Most professionals reported they would continue practicing self-care after the pandemic, albeit they were skeptical about people continuing to self-care (after the pandemic ends).

Perceived barriers to self-care were poor understanding, digital exclusion, and hesitancy to engage with health services. Healthcare professionals consistently recommended improving general well-being and making healthy lifestyle decisions. The small sample of only 304 professionals may not fully represent the UK's social care and healthcare professional workforce. Further, more research is needed to examine whether these changes would sustain or increase in the future.

*Important notice: Research Square publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

Journal reference:
Tarun Sai Lomte

Written by

Tarun Sai Lomte

Tarun is a writer based in Hyderabad, India. He has a Master’s degree in Biotechnology from the University of Hyderabad and is enthusiastic about scientific research. He enjoys reading research papers and literature reviews and is passionate about writing.

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