“Trust people you’ve never worked with” – A social network visualization of teamwork, cohesion, social support, and mental health in NHS Covid personnel

Stefan Schilling*, Maria Armaou, Zoe Morrison, Paul Carding, Martin Bricknell, Vincent Connolly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The unprecedented rapid re-deployment of healthcare workers from different care pathways into newly created and fluid COVID-19 teams provides a unique opportunity to examine the interaction of many of the established non-technical factors for successful delivery of clinical care and teamwork in healthcare settings. This research paper therefore aims to address these gaps by qualitatively exploring the impact of COVID work throughout the pandemic on permanent and deployed personnel’s experiences, their ability to effectively work together, and the effect of social dynamics (e.g., cohesion, social support) on teamwork and mental health.

Methods: Seventy-five interviews were conducted across the UK between March and December 2021 during wave 2 and 3 of COVID-19 with 75 healthcare workers who were either permanent staff on Intensive Care/High Dependency Units used as COVID wards, had been rapidly deployed to such a ward, or had managed such wards. Work Life Balance was measured using the WLB Scale. Interview transcripts were qualitatively coded and thematic codes were compared using network graph modeling.

Results: Using thematic network analysis, four overarching thematic clusters were found, (1) teamwork, (2) organizational support and management, (3) cohesion and social support, and (4) psychological strain. The study has three main findings. First, the importance of social factors for teamwork and mental health, whereby team identity may influence perceptions of preparedness, collaboration and communication, and impact on the collective appraisal of stressful events and work stressors. Secondly, it demonstrates the positive and negative impact of professional roles and skills on the development of teamwork and team identity. Lastly the study identifies the more pronounced negative impact of COVID work on deployed personnel’s workload, mental health, and career intentions, exacerbated by reduced levels of social support during, and after, their deployment.

Conclusion: The thematic network analysis was able to highlight that many of the traditional factors associated with the successful delivery of patient care were impeded by pandemic constraints, markedly influencing personnel’s ability to work together and cope with pandemic work stressors. In this environment teamwork, delivery of care and staff well-being appear to depend on relational and organizational context, social group membership, and psycho-social skills related to managing team identity. While results hold lessons for personnel selection, training, co-location, and organizational support during and after a pandemic, further research is needed into the differential impact of pandemic deployment on HCWs mental health and teamwork.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1293171
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume15
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2024

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