Protecting the Mental and Physical Well-Being of Frontline Health Care Workers During COVID-19

Study Protocol of a Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial

Published in: Contemporary Clinical Trials, Volume 117 (June 2022). doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2022.106768

Posted on RAND.org on May 17, 2022

by Lu Dong, Lisa S. Meredith, Carrie M. Farmer, Sangeeta C. Ahluwalia, Peggy G. Chen, Kathryn E. Bouskill, Bing Han, Nabeel Qureshi, Sarah Dalton, Patricia J. Watson, et al.

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Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed health care workers at unprecedented risk of stress, burnout, and moral injury. This paper describes the design of an ongoing cluster randomized controlled trial to compare the effectiveness of Stress First Aid (SFA) to Usual Care (UC) in protecting the well-being of frontline health care workers.

Methods

We plan to recruit a diverse set of hospitals and health centers (eight matched pairs of hospitals and six pairs of centers), with a goal of approximately 50 HCW per health center and 170 per hospital. Participating sites in each pair are randomly assigned to SFA or UC (i.e., whatever psychosocial support is currently being received by HCW). Each site identified a leader to provide organizational support of the study; SFA sites also identified at least one champion to be trained in the intervention. Using a "train the trainer" model, champions in turn trained their peers in selected HCW teams or units to implement SFA over an eight-week period. We surveyed HCW before and after the implementation period. The primary outcomes are posttraumatic stress disorder and general psychological distress; secondary outcomes include depression and anxiety symptoms, sleep problems, social functioning problems, burnout, moral distress, and resilience. In addition, through in-depth qualitative interviews with leaders, champions, and HCW, we assessed the implementation of SFA, including acceptability, feasibility, and uptake.

Discussion

Results from this study will provide initial evidence for the application of SFA to support HCW well-being during a pandemic.

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