It’s just not that easy! Challenges faced by nurses and midwives in the work environment in adhering to social distancing during COVID-19

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Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing


Aim: The aim of this study was to understand the challenges that nurses and midwives face when seeking to practice social distancing within the various clinical settings in a hospital work environment during COVID-19. Background: COVID-19 has had a significant impact on nurses and midwives internationally. With the ease of transmission of COVID-19 and the limitations in pharmaceutical interventions, other measures had to be implemented across communities and in healthcare settings. These public health measures were enacted in various ways throughout the world. A key measure employed globally was social distancing. Australia was no different, initiating community wide interventions to apply social distancing principles and action, in an effort to reduce transmission. Whilst at their places of work, nurses and midwives were also encouraged to practice social distancing. Design and methods: Using convenience sampling, 579 nurses and midwives employed within one local health district in NSW, Australia completed an online questionnaire during the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently, a thematic analysis was undertaken as a way of categorising data from the 216 (37%) qualitative responses with regards to social distancing. This study adhered to The Standards for Reporting Qualitative Research (SRQR) guidelines. Results: Overwhelmingly, responses indicated that participants found it challenging to practice social distancing in their workplaces across various clinical settings within the hospital. The two major themes identified were: 1) challenges relating to social distancing with patients and 2) challenges related to social distancing with colleagues. Several sub themes were also identified. Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a number of challenges for healthcare professionals, social distancing being a key challenge. Social distancing is argued to be almost impossible in various clinical settings within a hospital where patient contact and provision of care in a team environment occurs.

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