Research reveals a global link between COVID-19 and the capacity of paediatric oncology health professionals to provide high quality care
The research published by Wiley online in CANCER, a peer reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic had a profound effect on paediatric care causing significant staff changes resulting in physical, psychological and financial distress.
However, the study revealed that despite the challenges of COVID-19, clinicians were able to come together to continue to provide high-quality care for children with cancer, despite the challenges.
The pandemic caused widespread disruptions in the medical sectors around the world. Surveying 331 clinicians caring for children with cancer from 213 institutions representing 79 countries, Elizabeth Sniderman and her team were able to examine the effects of COVID-19 had on paediatric oncology providers.
Impacts of COVID felt across all countries, regardless of wealth
- Decreased clinical staff availability was cited as a major impact by 51% of institutions.
- Staffing modifications included decreased provider availability (66% of institutions), roles or responsibility changes, and transfer of staff to work outside of their specialty.
- Physical effects included COVID-19 illness, with 8% of respondents reporting health care provider deaths at their institutions.
- Fifty percent of providers did not have the necessary personal protective equipment.
- Respondents also experienced psychological distress and financial concerns.
- Impacts were felt by countries across all income levels.
Sniderman’s research supports previous studies showing the significant effect on nursing staff in particular during the pandemic.
Sniderman said: “Nurses were especially vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic, as they became ill or quarantined more often, faced additional financial challenges, and were reassigned more often than physician colleagues.”
How did healthcare professionals adapt?
The study showed that burdens were addressed by increased teamwork, communication, contributions outside usual roles, and policies aimed at optimising safety.
Negative impacts were also counter-balanced by feelings of making a difference or contributing to the control of the pandemic.
Sniderman noted that although the study was conducted early in the COVID-19 pandemic, prior to the initiation of vaccination and the emergence of new variants, the findings revealed important strategies that remain relevant and are key for protecting health care providers.
“The stabilising elements that we found to help mitigate the challenges of the pandemic included teamwork, communication, feelings of contributing, and policies aimed at optimising safety. These factors should be enhanced and implemented by organisations to support providers during this pandemic and future health crises,” she said.
Although the study shows the impressive way this collection of professionals found ways to adapt to the pandemic, it cannot be overlooked that the outbreak of COVID-19 highlighted a significant lack of support and could ultimately affect children health and compromise their care.