COVID-19 presents an unprecedented global public health challenge and front line workers providing direct care to COVID-19 patients will shoulder a particularly difficult burden. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified the importance of promoting the psychological well-being of front line workers during this pandemic.
Existing guidance prepared by professional bodies (e.g. Psychological Society of Ireland, British Psychological Society) typically pertain to events such as terrorist attacks and natural disasters. However, COVID-19 presents a unique challenge as it is protracted, global in reach, and unprecedented in scale.
Professor Brian McGuire explains "We simply do not know what psychological supports are required by front line workers during each stage of a pandemic of this nature. Problems with persistent distress may well emerge later."
Learning from the healthcare professionals
Professor Brian McGuire, School of Psychology, will lead this project to identify best-practice guidance for mental health specialists and managers tasked with supporting front-line workers struggling with psychological distress due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The project team includes psychologists, a psychiatrist and ICU doctors based both in Ireland and in Italy, where the pandemic has already peaked, and from whom we can learn about the support needs of frontline workers facing one of the highest mortality rates globally.
"We know that frontline workers are under considerable strain, working incredibly hard, making tough decisiions and often staying separate from their families. We want to find out what the stressors are how best we can help support their mental wellbeing", explains Professor McGuire.
The reserach will include interviews with healthcare professionals and a a large national online survey. These will gather information about people's experiences, their moods, anxiety, sleeep patterns and other relevant infmraiton.
From this data - and drawing on experience from other countries - best practice guidelines on how to support workers with acute and persistent distress at each phase of the pandemic This will inform managers mental health specialists on how to support healthcare professionals now and in the case of future pandemics.
Brian McGuire is a Professor of Clinical Psychology.
He worked initially as a research psychologist in brain injury rehabilitation in London. He then moved to Sydney where he spent the next 10 years lecturing in psychology at several universities and working as a clinical psychologist. His clinical work was initially in the area of learning disability and challenging behaviour, before he moved into private practice where his work focused on medicolegal assessment and the rehabilitation of persons with chronic pain, acquired brain impairment, and those recovering from work and motor accidents.
It was in that context that his interest in symptom magnification and malingering developed and he completed his PhD in that area. After leaving Australia, Brian was Consultant Clinical Psychologist in brain injury rehabilitation where he co-ordinated the clinical services of several in-patient rehabilitation units in the north of England. After returning to Ireland, Brian worked with the Galway Association learning disability service. He joined NUI, Galway in 2003 and was the Director of the Doctor of Psychological Science programme in Clinical Psychology until 2014 when he took up his post as HRB Research Leader in Population Health. In addition, he is Director of the Doctor of Psychological Science for Qualified Clinicians and Joint Director of the Centre for Pain Research.
Professor McGuire is a graduate of NUI Galway and has also completed a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology (Sydney), a Diploma in Criminology (Sydney), a Diploma in Health Science (Clinical Teaching, NUI Galway) and a PhD in clinical psychology (Sydney).