Researchers seek health-care workers, bereaved family members for studies related to death during pandemic
University of Manitoba researchers want to understand the personal toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on front-line health workers who have cared for dying patients.
They also want to discover what it’s been like for people to experience the death of a family member during the pandemic.
Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov, distinguished professor of psychiatry in the Max Rady College of Medicine and senior scientist at the CancerCare Manitoba Research Institute, is leading several studies as part of a research program called “Dignity in Care in the Time of the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Chochinov, a laureate of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, is a globally recognized expert on end-of-life care and dying with dignity. The pandemic, he says, has profoundly affected how health professionals provide care to patients who are dying of any cause, and how loved ones navigate bereavement.
“For health-care providers, many of these stories have been untold,” Chochinov says. “Everybody has been working at such a frenetic pace that there is little time to be attentive to the emotional fallout of working during the time of the pandemic.”
The researchers plan to study the psychological impacts of having to protect oneself and others from infection while delivering end-of-life care in an overloaded health-care system in which many deaths are occurring.
“Doing this study with health-care providers is a way of recording that experience – the prevalence of effects such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, burnout and COVID-related distress. Then we can begin planning resources and interventions that will be effective to try and mitigate their stress,” the professor says.
People who have experienced the loss of a loved one from any cause have had to deal with many stresses related to COVID health restrictions, such as the inability to visit those dying in hospital or to gather for rituals of mourning.
“For families and health-care providers who have experienced death during the time of pandemic: Your stories are important,” says Chochinov. “We want to hear your stories, because your stories need to be heard. If we can learn from your experience, we are in a better position to deal with your distress in the future.
“Many people welcome the opportunity to give voice to things that have been troubling them, so the research for families and health-care providers will hopefully be seen as an opportunity.”
Participation in a Dignity in Care study is done through an online survey that takes about 20 minutes to complete.
The survey is done three times in total, with six-month intervals between each survey. Researchers will also be conducting interviews with willing participants that take about 30 to 60 minutes.
“Even though there is a light at the end of the tunnel and COVID may hopefully be ending soon, stress and grief don’t have well-defined timelines, so we will continue to see the fallout of this for months, if not years, to come,” says Chochinov.
To learn more about how to participate in a Dignity in Care research study:
Study email: dignityincare [at] umanitoba [dot] ca
Study phone number: 431-336-6266
Facebook page: @dignityincareresearch