Survey: Frontline health care workers describe early pandemic

Workers reported fear, unsafe work conditions, and retaliation in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health care workers on the frontline have described the fear they felt in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a news release, a survey of 1,200 health care workers across the country conducted between the beginning of Mary 2020 and the end of June 2020 by student researchers at George Washington University found that respondents were frustrated with unsafe working conditions, particularly the lack of access to adequate personal protective equipment.

"This survey gives a voice to US health care workers who have been on the frontlines of COVID-19," David Michaels, a professor of environmental and occupational health at the George Washington University and former administrator of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, says in the release. "Health care workers have valuable first-hand knowledge about this pandemic and this report offers recommendations that could help keep the U.S. on a steady course now and in the future."

According to the release, other concerns repeatedly mention by the respondents include retaliation and bullying for voicing safety concerns to their employers, and the perception that their employers prioritized hospital profits over safety creating an unhealthy work environment in which employees felt devalued and threatened.

"The responses to the survey contain important insights that cannot be gleaned from statistics alone," Nathan L. McCray, a lead author of the report, says in the release. "Workers voiced a range of experiences during the first few months of pandemic, including those that were positive and others that were excruciating."

Respondents were asked what solutions could solve the problems they describe. They recommended improved communication and worker protection policies based on scientific evidence. They also recommend that the federal government step up and increase the national stockpile of personal protective equipment, according to the release.