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Three-quarters of healthcare workers suffer from infection fears 
  • By Park Gi-taek
  • Published 2020.03.16 16:59
  • Updated 2020.03.16 16:59
  • comments 0

About three out of four hospital employees, including doctors and nurses, are stressed out due to the possibility of the new coronavirus infection and serious damages that could ensue, a poll showed.

Myongji Hospital has conducted a survey, jointly with the research team of Professor You Myung-soon of Seoul National University Graduate School of Public Health, on more than 1,300 hospital staff (response rate at 40.5 percent), including physicians, nurses, health workers, and administrative workers, from Feb. 28 to March 2.

The opinion poll was the second by the hospital, located in Goyang, north of Seoul, followed by the first one conducted from Feb. 6-12 when the number of confirmed cases in Korea stood at a mere 28. When the hospital conducted the second poll, the number exceeded 4,000.

To a question of how much chance the respondents had to get infected with COVID-19, 53.4 percent said they had a moderate chance and 22.7 percent, a high chance. About 76 percent were worried about the risk of infection. The perception of the risk among nurses, in particular, was the highest at 79.6 percent.

The 76 percent of the respondents worried about infection marked a rise of 40.6 percentage points from that of the first survey (35.5 percent). With communal spread occurring in earnest, the hospital staff’s anxiety about COVID-19 infection within the hospital has risen.

With the assumption that they get the virus, about 46.6 percent said the infection would inflict severe damages on their health and other matters.

The survey also asked how COVID-19 had changed their daily life. Seventy percent said it had “a significant change,” up by 24.7 percentage points from that of the first poll. The change was attributed to heavier workload and adjustments of roles with the spread of the infections.

Myongji Hospital staff also expressed grave concern about their workplace. Seventy-eight percent of the respondents worried about a possible spread of COVID-19 within the hospital, and 76 percent, about increased work, and 68 percent, about the hospital’s responsibility for COVID-19 treatment. However, only 46 percent was concerned about treatments’ results.

While 73 percent said they were worried about the hospital’s financial losses due to its focus on the treatment of COVID-19 patents and the consequent decrease of visits by general patients, 60 percent said they were not anxious about the outsiders’ view and the reputation of the hospital. This indicated that the hospital’s employees were recognizing social support for the hospital’s bearing the brunt of combat against COVID-19.

Despite the increase in organizational and work-related stress caused by COVID-19, 87.3 percent of Myongji employees agreed with the view that the hospital should maintain the state-designated negative pressure ward and receive confirmed patients in the event of an epidemic.

The most common reason why they thought so was that “it was something a hospital should do.” Other comments included, “someone had to do the job, and our hospital should do it,” “we are running it, so we should keep it,” “Myongji Hospital can treat well infectious disease patients based on experience and technology,” and “we can have pride and good reputation.”

Those who opposed the operation of the state-designated quarantine ward said it would aggravate fear, bring overwork without rewards, and increase the chances of staff getting the infection. Some questioned whether the hospital, as a private medical institution, needs to do it.

To open questions asking to leave comments for coworkers fighting COVID-19, most frequently shown words, gathered by word crowding, were “Cheer up,” “Go, coworkers,” “We,” “Trust,” and “I respect you.” The words showed a sense of solidarity for healthcare workers battling COVID-19.

Professor You, who designed and analyzed the survey, said although it is important to send supporting messages to physicians and medical institutions and enhance social solidary, healthcare workers’ extra work and efforts could not be offset by people’s calling them “warriors” or “angels.”

“Without a system that guarantees immediate safety enhancement and due compensation, we cannot make progress in overcoming a crisis,” she emphasized.

The poll was meaningful in that it collected and exposed the voices of healthcare workers amid the spread of COVID-19, she added.


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