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Eur J Psychotraumatol ; 12(1): 1968141, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1475710


The no-visitor policies endorsed by healthcare organizations to limit COVID-19 virus risk exposure have unfortunately contributed to the isolation of patients further exacerbating distress in relatives and frontline healthcare workers. To contrast such effects, many healthcare institutions have adopted technology-based solutions helping patients and families communicate online through the aid of virtual devices. To date, no study has investigated whether facilitating patient-family videocalls would mitigate distress levels in frontline healthcare professionals. Caring for emotional needs of patients by re-establishing affiliative connections interrupted by the pandemic through patient-family videocalls is expected to mitigate distress in engaged healthcare workers as an example of a tend-and-befriend response to stress caused by the pandemic. We tested this hypothesis in a cross-sectional study conducted during 1-30 June 2020, involving 209 healthcare workers (nurses = 146; physicians = 63) engaged in the COVID-19 frontline in Italy. Half of participants in our sample (n = 107) had assisted efforts aimed at connecting patients remotely with families through videocalls. Psychological distress measures included symptoms of burnout, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and difficulty in sleep and wakefulness. Partially in line with our expectations we found a modulation effect specific for professional category: nurses assisting patient-family videocalls reported significantly lower levels of distress and a better quality of wakefulness compared to those who did not, whereas physicians reported higher levels of distress during such virtual communications. We interpret these findings from the perspective of patient-family communication and differences in skills and training between nurses and physicians. These findings highlight that technology-based solutions aimed at reducing barriers and alleviating distress in healthcare settings should be promoted in concert with skill enhancement training for healthcare professionals especially in terms of communicating online and communicating difficult topics with patients and families.

COVID-19/therapy , Family/psychology , Health Personnel/psychology , Inpatients/psychology , Psychological Distress , Videoconferencing/instrumentation , Adult , Cross-Sectional Studies , Female , Hospitals , Humans , Italy , Male , Middle Aged , Quarantine , Technology