Preparedness and the importance of meeting the needs of healthcare workers: a qualitative study on Ebola.

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Healthcare workers (HCWs) face specific challenges in infectious disease outbreaks, which provide unusual, new events with exposure risk. The fear of infection or new, unknown tasks in an unfamiliar setting, for example, may complicate outbreak management.

AIM

To gain insight into how healthcare organizations can prepare to meet the needs of their HCWs by capturing the experiences of HCWs with patients with suspected Ebola virus disease.

METHODS

We conducted 23 in-depth interviews with HCWs, of whom 20 worked in a Dutch university hospital and three worked in a regional ambulance service. We invited HCWs who cared for patients with suspected Ebola or who were on the team preparing for admission of such patients in the period 2014-2015.

FINDINGS

The HCWs were stressed and anxious, but most rated their overall experience as positive. We categorized the reported experiences in three main themes, namely, experiences related to: (i) the novelty of the threat, (ii) the risk of infection and fear of transmission, and (iii) the excessive attention. Our results underline the importance of a supportive working environment suitable for crises.

CONCLUSION

The experiences of HCWs dealing with patients with suspected Ebola can direct improvements in generic preparedness for highly transmissible diseases.

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