VHA Research

Safer Teams

VHA Research

Safer Teams

Study: Who Meets Home Care Providers’ Emotional Support Needs?

What's the challenge?

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, 70% of heath care providers have reported through Statistics Canada that their mental health had worsened. While large-scale reports have not focused on home and community care providers, 55% of personal support workers specifically reported that their days were now very stressful and providing care has been particularly challenging as they continue to support their vulnerable clients in uncontrolled environments while trying to navigate the risk of transmission and infection. From an employer perspective, encouraging positive emotional health and well-being is imperative to home care provider retention. However, despite having access to some mental health services, evidence suggests that home care providers do not seek or utilize these supports. To create effective interventions, it’s crucial to understand home care workers’ help-seeking behaviours and preferences for support.

What have we done?

A web-based survey was disseminated in November 2021 to better understand VHA home care provider perspectives on their emotional support needs, current and preferred sources of support, and barriers to accessing resources. Informational resources will be developed to address key findings.

What have we found?

252 VHA point-of-care providers completed the survey, including PSWs (47%), nurses (17%), and rehab providers (35%). While all provider groups believe that emotional support resources are beneficial, three key barriers to seeking were shared: (1) reluctance to burden others with their emotional support needs; (2) do not have enough time to seek or use supports and, (3) need more direct, personal connections with peers and leaders.

Organization-based support: PSWs rely on organization-based supports and resources, such as their supervisors and coaches, and Employee and Family Assistance Programs at a higher rate than the industry standards. Nurses and rehab providers primarily rely on informal supports such as peers, family, and friends for their wellbeing needs. Nurses expressed a willingness to use organization-based supports, but report scheduling conflicts as a barrier. Rehab providers shared lack of awareness of organization-based supports.

Opportunities: Three primary opportunities were gleaned from the data:

  1. promote awareness by normalizing conversations of mental health and seeking support
  2. encourage peer support by facilitating connection between those working in similar locations and with similar clients, and
  3. support existing supports such as supervisors, coaches, and clinical leads to ‘refill their cup.’

Our response

The Refill Your Cup: Emotional Support Resources Directory accessible to all staff and care providers on VHA’s intranet was developed in response to study findings. This directory is a collection of low-cost and accessible mental health resources and services likely to be helpful to home care workers. The directory covers topics such as burnout, anxiety, and grief, and resources/services that are culturally sensitive.

What's next?

The team will begin to collate resources and guides for leaders to facilitate mental health conversations with their teams without compromising their own emotional well-being.

Additional information