The lived experiences of South African occupational therapists regarding the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on their wellness
Keywords:Health professionals, Employee wellness, Online wellness/resilience programmes, Professional engagement, Healthcare workers
Introduction: The Covid-19 pandemic impacted the wellness of health professionals around the world. In order to ensure that healthcare systems are sustainably able to provide services during times of emergency, the health and wellness of health professionals should be safeguarded. The researchers were interested in exploring the impact of the first wave of the pandemic on the holistic wellness of South African occupational therapists and to identify strategies therapists employed to facilitate their own wellness. Method: The study followed a qualitative research design with phenomenological characteristics. Two asynchronous (text-based) online focus groups were conducted, each with eight participants. Participants providing occupational therapy services in different fields of practice and in different contexts were purposefully selected. Participants in both groups were asked a series of five questions in an online forum over a period of six days. Two researchers facilitated interaction within the groups to encourage in depth discussions. Results and Discussion: The data were analysed by means of deductive thematic analysis, whereby the dimensions of holistic wellness were used to guide analysis. The results illustrate the pervasive influence the COVID-19 pandemic had on the wellness of South African occupational therapists. Conclusion: Lessons learnt are discussed to facilitate the preparedness of South African occupational therapists for future pandemics. Implications for practice • Occupational therapists should endeavour to prioritise their
own wellness to the best of their abilities. • Occupational therapists should utilise familiar strategies to facilitate their own wellness during future highly stressful times, such as during future pandemics or states of emergency. • Occupational therapists may be excellently positioned to facilitate the fostering of wellness of other HPs in the professional team.
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