This site has been optimized to work with modern browsers and does not fully support your version of Internet Explorer.

Covid-19: investigating the team working experiences of front line NHS staff

A new research project, led by Oxford Brookes University, will examine the team working experiences of front line NHS staff working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 18-month project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19, will interview and survey NHS personnel who worked, or who are currently working on COVID-19 wards, as well as senior managers and nursing and clinical directors from across the UK. The research will investigate the experience of working in front line NHS teams during the pandemic.

Academics aim to understand the short and longer-term impacts of working in such environments on teamwork and leadership, individual team members’ well-being and their future career plans. By exploring what NHS trusts have learned throughout the pandemic, the research project will provide best practice and educational guidance for team working to inform nation-wide responses to future pandemics, as well as to localised emergency and disaster relief efforts.

The research team is now seeking NHS personnel to take part in interviews and online surveys. To take part, participants should visit the Rapidly-formed COVID-19 teams in the NHS project webpages where they can find further information and register for the study.

Thousands of people redeployed to rapidly reinforce ICU

In response to the pandemic, NHS trusts across the country had to reinforce intensive and critical care units by redeploying personnel from other medical care pathways. During the first wave in Spring 2020, 15,000 student doctors and student nurses, Armed Forces personnel and many volunteers, including retired personnel, were recruited into the NHS.

Simultaneously, non-critical care personnel, such as respiratory therapists, speech therapists and physiotherapists were assigned to work on COVID-19 wards to observe respiratory functions, support patients with breathing and perform ‘proning’ – a procedure where patients are laid in a face down position to reduce the strain on their airways.

Professor of Psychology, Vincent Connelly, from Oxford Brookes University is the research lead for the project. He said: “The pandemic response has seen an unprecedented deployment of medical personnel, which is a true testament to the work ethic and resilience of those in the NHS. As such, COVID-19 has posed unique challenges for the successful development of teamwork and communication between team members and we are very interested in how team leaders and team members have responded to the challenge over the past year.”

COVID-19 presents unique challenges in the workplace

Dr Stefan Schilling, a Research Fellow at Oxford Brookes University added: “The ad hoc and fluid nature of these teams and the restrictive nature of COVID-19 wards could undermine many of the well-known factors for successful teamwork and performance.”

“For example, working in PPE not only risks stifling communication, but also inhibits those important watercooler moments which any team, but especially nurses and doctors working in such a high-stress environment, rely on to get to know each other, provide support and comfort, recharge and vent.”

The project involves academics from Oxford Brookes University’s Psychology Department, the Oxford Institute of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Research (OxINMAHR), Robert Gordon University and King’s College London, and is supported by the Florence Nightingale Foundation and the Faculty of Medical Leadership Management.

More information about the Rapidly formed COVID-19 teams in the NHS project, can be found on the Oxford Brookes University research webpages.

Corporate Research Healthcare Innovation COVID-19 Education and Training