(L-R) Dr Sara Holton, Dr Karen Wynter, Prof Bodil Rasmussen
(L-R) Dr Sara Holton, Dr Karen Wynter, Prof Bodil Rasmussen. Deakin University.


Australian hospital clinical staff experienced considerable emotional distress during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly nurses and midwives and staff who had direct contact with people with a COVID-19 diagnosis. It has been shown that those staff who participated in health service support initiatives and rated them highly were less likely to have depression, anxiety and stress symptoms. The implementation and adequate resourcing of tailored, ongoing, support interventions is essential for protecting the psychological well being of hospital clinical staff during the COVID-19 pandemic and any future outbreaks of infectious diseases.


Dr Sara Holton 1, Senior Research Fellow.  

Dr Karen Wynter 1, 2, Senior Research Fellow.  

Professor Bodil Rasmussen 1, 2, 3, 4, Chair in Nursing.

1 School of Nursing and Midwifery, Deakin University, Australia. 2 Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research – Western Health Partnership, Deakin University, Australia.3 Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.  4 Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark.



The outbreak of COVID-19 is having, and will have, a significant effect on health services. Research conducted by Deakin University and Western Health provides some of the first Australian data about the impact of COVID-19 on the psychological wellbeing of hospital clinical staff. In this study, approximately a quarter of the nurses, midwives, doctors and allied health staff surveyed during the first wave of the pandemic reported symptoms of psychological distress. Nurses and midwives had significantly higher levels of anxiety, depression and stress compared to data from Australian adults before the pandemic. They also had more severe anxiety symptoms than medical and allied health staff working in the same health service. Having less clinical experience and direct contact with people with a COVID-19 diagnosis made staff more vulnerable to distress.

Despite a lower number of COVID-19 cases and a lower death rate than in other countries, the proportion of Australian hospital clinical staff experiencing distress is similar to that found in other countries. Without adequate support, clinical staff may resign from their jobs, be absent from work, become unwell, or be unable to provide high quality care for their patients.

Additional well-being initiatives, targeted at specific groups such as nurses and midwives, are needed for hospital clinical staff during the current pandemic and any future outbreaks of infectious diseases.


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