University of Tartu researchers study the impact of COVID-19 on nurses
Researchers of the University of Tartu Department of Nursing Science are leading an international study in Estonia focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on the nursing care service and nurses working in the local healthcare system. As nurses are the central human resource in healthcare, it is important to assess the nursing care provided in the crisis as well as the factors influencing it to foster the quality and safety of healthcare.
The corona pandemic that started in spring increased the workload of the healthcare sector and made healthcare workers face various challenges. Along with the entire healthcare sector, nurses across the world suddenly had to deal with a completely changed organisation of everyday work, scarcity of supplies, ethical choices and the need to update their knowledge.
Gerli Usberg, Assistant of Nursing Science of the University of Tartu Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health, said the crisis strongly emphasised the central role of nurses in the healthcare system. “Both our own experience and the data collected in other countries indicate that the need for nurses was greater than ever before,” said Usberg.
In Estonia, nurses’ work in such a comprehensive crisis has not been studied before. “Just as we need knowledge about a disease, its behaviour and impact, it is also important to know about the impact of the crisis on the work of nurses as the most numerous group of healthcare workers who also have the closest contact with patients,” said Usberg.
Impact of the crisis on nursing
To cope with the difficulties encountered during the crisis and to learn from them, researchers from Austria, Canada, Croatia, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the UK and Estonia, led by the University of Turin, study how COVID-19 affected the nurses’ work and the nursing care they provide. The Estonian partner in the research project is the Department of Nursing Science of the University of Tartu Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health and the principal investigator is Mari-Katariina Kangasniemi, visiting professor at the department.
The international study aims to describe the impact of COVID-19 on nurses’ work and its organisation, study the nurses’ preparedness for the crisis, satisfaction with the nursing care provided as well as the methods and solutions that helped to be on top of the most important information in the constantly changing situation.
Usberg, one of the organisers of the study in Estonia, said that a quality, human-centred and safe healthcare that efficiently adapts to changes is in the interests of all people. “Crises intensify the need for it, but also mercilessly point out the key concerns. Hence the findings of the study could benefit both the consumers and the providers of the healthcare services as well as political decision‑makers. For a personal and safe healthcare, we first need a sufficient number of nurses with the relevant knowledge and skills, an appropriate organisation of work and support systems,” Usberg added.
The researchers expect the international study to help to reveal what exactly a crisis means to nursing and to draw attention to possible shortcomings that must be addressed to be better prepared for future crises. The findings of the study can be used to develop nursing practice and plan the necessary steps in management as well as in education and healthcare policy.
The researchers are aiming to involve 370 nurses who provided healthcare service during the COVID‑19 crisis in spring and summer in Estonia, irrelevant of their workload or type of employment. Nurses who did not have direct contact with COVID-19 patients are also welcome to participate.
The data is collected using an online questionnaire specifically developed for this study at the University of Turin. According to Usberg, the questionnaire has been adapted to suit the organisation of the Estonian healthcare system and our nurses’ work. The questionnaire can be completed until 31 October in Estonian and Russian. For more information, see the Facebook page of the Department of Nursing Science.