In a recent study published in PLoS ONE, researchers evaluated changes in self-documented attitudes, perceptions, and practices of self-care among healthcare professionals (HCPs) during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Study: How has COVID-19 changed healthcare professionals’ attitudes to self-care? A mixed methods research study. Image Credit: Kite_rin / Shutterstock.com
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted healthcare services worldwide, as it contributed to the transition to remote modes of delivery. Self-care became a crucial aspect of healthcare, particularly during nationwide lockdowns to reduce the transmission of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission.
Professionals in social and healthcare settings modified their expectations and procedures to accommodate new methods of working; however, little is known about the influence of this shift on professional attitudes and behaviors. Furthermore, there remains a lack of research on HCPs' attitudes regarding self-care or HCP attitudes in any situation since the initial nationwide lockdown.
About the study
The researchers sought to determine the level of confidence among HCPs in advocating self-care and lifestyle treatments in their field of work and whether dependence on self-care has grown more widespread. HCPs' attitudes regarding self-care and the influence of technology on their everyday patient encounters were also evaluated.
The study cohort comprised 304 HCPs, including doctors, nurses, social prescribers (SPs), and pharmacists. Each study participant completed cross-sectional 27-item web-based surveys, and nine HCPs undertook semi-structured-type qualitative interviews.
Views on the implications and permanence of the changes were analyzed. Routine statistics were used to analyze data, and a thematic analysis was performed to identify the main themes.
The survey link was made available online between February 3, 2021, and August 3, 2021. Changes in care delivery linked to self-care interventions provided by health and social care personnel to their service users as a result of COVID-19 were discovered by asking various questions about self-reported or perceived levels of care before and during COVID-19.
The poll contained two questions to investigate perceived hurdles to self-care procedures, including questions about technological (e.g., digital exclusion), systemic (e.g., funding), and professional (e.g., interprofessional communication) limitations.
A male general practitioner performed the interviews in person between July 28, 2021, and September 8, 2021, and remotely through phone or video conversations.
The study participants, including 78% females and 79% Whites, were surveyed to understand the need for self-care practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of respondents reported that self-care was very important for their patients, with a significant increase in self-care capacity and personal empowerment.
The proportion of HCPs feeling that self-care was extremely essential to their patients increased from 54% to 87% since the pandemic started. Self-care barriers included participation willingness, lack of self-care understanding, and digital exclusion, which affected 75%, 72%, and 72% of the cohort, respectively. The pandemic has made the absolute case for self-care, with 54% reporting an increased likelihood of adhering to self-care practices as a first option.
Among HCPs, 76% believed that they had the proficiency and resources for promoting self-care in clinical practice. However, only 26% perceived that their users were sufficiently prepared, and 29% agreed that their users had the resources and competencies for self-care.
Nevertheless, 86% of HCPs reported an increased likelihood of signing post-service users up for web-based self-care health resources during the pandemic. Respondents predicted that 97% would continue to actively refer users to openly accessible self-care tools, even after COVID-19 ended. Comparatively, 87% said they would encourage greater dependence on self-care among their customers, and 75% of HCPs stated they were personally more inclined to participate in self-care.
Despite the positive transition to caring for oneself, concerns were raised about whether the shift was perceived as 'abandonment' rather than 'empowerment' and whether issues were stored instead of being dealt with through self-care. Nevertheless, 85% of respondents were more likely to recommend self-care during COVID-19 as compared to pre-pandemic times.
Over 50% of surveyed HCPs perceived self-care as very important to their patients before the pandemic, which subsequently increased to 86% during the pandemic. Self-care barriers included engagement in self-care practices, understanding such practices, and digital exclusion. The extent of permanence of COVID-19-associated changes depends on the empowerment and continual motivation among individuals and their inclusion in educational programs.
To promote awareness and knowledge, a central repository of evidence-based self-care resources should be developed and maintained, with the Self-Care Forum United Kingdom attempting to achieve this. Additional education on self-care capability across all pillars of self-care is needed, with a structured microlearning approach, as well as medical and nursing curricula integrating relevant elements to promoting individual self-care capabilities. A coherent national view on self-care is also crucial, with education from the public, professionals, and the political world on its practicality and benefits.