Almost 60 Percent of Intensive Care Staff Report “Good Wellbeing” Amid Pandemic: Study

January 13, 2021 Updated: January 13, 2021

A study of healthcare staff working in Intensive Care Units has shown that 58.8 percent reported “good wellbeing,” despite facing potential challenges to their mental health amid the CCP virus pandemic.

The challenges faced by the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) staff ranged from long shifts, in some cases a lack of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), and a “regular exposure to ethical dilemmas with the consequential risk of moral injury.”

These contingencies were combined with caring for dependent children and meeting other household responsibilities, researchers said.

The study (pdf) published on Monday in the Occupational Medicine journal, was carried out by Kings College London.

It surveyed 709 doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers in ICU’s at six English hospitals during June and July 2020.

Positive Well-Being

While it did not account for why almost 60 percent of the staff reported positively on their well-being amid the challenges they faced in ICU, the study showed that six percent of those surveyed “met the threshold for probable clinical significance” with severe depression.

It also showed that seven percent met the threshold with problem drinking,11 percent with severe anxiety, and thirteen percent with “frequent thoughts of being better off dead, or of hurting themselves in the past two weeks.”

It also showed that almost 40 percent of respondents reported what could be regarded as probable Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is more commonly associated with the after-effects of military combat but can also follow for a proportion of people if their stress reactions to things like serious accidents, terrorism, natural disasters, or personally suffered violent assaults like rape don’t subside over time.

However, researchers said that when compared to other studies involving veterans and ordinary citizens their findings showed PTSD to be around nine times more prevalent in the ICU staff they surveyed than in the general population.

Researchers stated that factors potentially limiting the rigor of their findings included their use of “self-report measures of mental illness rather than the gold-standard diagnostic interviews.”

Also, the report said that “response bias” could have occurred due to the possibility that “those who participated had especially salient mental health difficulties they wanted to report.”

Researchers advised that “Future studies would be improved if either participants were randomly selected or a non-responder analysis was carried out.”

Staff Performance Concerns

Nevertheless, researchers warned supervisors and managers that the performance of many ICU staff may be lowered by the poor state of their mental health.

They said study results showed the need for “a national strategy to protect the mental health and decrease the risk of functional impairment of ICU staff whilst they carry out their essential work during COVID-19.”

They also said, “NHS managers should prioritize provision of evidence-based staff support which is likely both to improve psychological wellbeing and decrease the likelihood of psychologically unwell staff delivering substandard care.”

Even before the pandemic started critical care bed numbers in England’s NHS had been increasing steadily over recent years due to things like an aging population, more transplants, and increases in medical technology requiring more complicated and specialized medical procedures.

Official statistics however are not publicly available because amid the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic the NHS has currently paused the collection and publication of figures for critical care beds, including those in existing NHS hospitals, in its new Nightingale hospitals, and any capacity it has bought from the private sector.

The study from Kings College London was made in partnership with Public Health England as part of research into Emergency Preparedness and Response.

Professor Neil Greenberg of Kings College London’s Institute for Psychiatry and lead author of the report had not responded to a request for comment.

The study is yet to be peer-reviewed.