"Covid Just Amplified the Cracks of the System": Working as a Frontline Health Worker during the COVID-19 Pandemic

26 November 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified existing workplace stresses and created new challenges for people working on the healthcare frontline, including rapid workplace changes and increasing uncertainty at work, along with fear of contracting the virus. The purpose of this study is to examine the workplace challenges described by Australian frontline health workers during the pandemic. Drawing on a national online anonymous survey of 9518 healthcare workers, we analysed free-text responses to the question: "What did you find to be the main challenges that you faced during the pandemic?" A qualitative content analysis was undertaken. We identified five key themes relating to participant experiences of workplace challenges. These were: Work-life imbalance; Following orders or caring for patients; Unpredictability, disruption, and inconsistency at work; The right to be safe at work; and (Un)preparedness in the workplace. We argue that working during the COVID-19 pandemic illuminated existing occupational health and safety issues that have serious implications for job satisfaction, health workforce retention, and ultimately, patient care.