A Qualitative Approach to Understanding Canadian Healthcare Workers’ Use of Coping Strategies during the COVID-19 Pandemic Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers (HCWs) have been exposed to highly stressful situations, including increased workloads and exposure to mortality, thus posing a risk for adverse psychological outcomes, including acute stress, moral injury, and depression or anxiety symptoms. Although several reports have sought to identify the types of coping strategies used by HCWs over the course of the pandemic (e.g., physical activity, religion/spirituality, meditation, and alcohol), it remains unclear which factors may influence HCWs’ choice of these coping strategies. Accordingly, using a qualitative approach, the purpose of the present study was to gain a deeper understanding of the factors influencing HCWs’ choice of coping strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. Fifty-one HCWs participated in virtual, semi-structured interviews between February and June 2021. Interview transcripts were analysed through an inductive thematic approach, yielding two primary themes. First, HCWs described an ongoing shift in their approach to coping depending on their mental “bandwidth”, ranging from “quick fix” to more “intentional effort” strategies to engage in proactive strategies to improve mental health. Second, many HCWs identified various barriers to desired coping strategies during the pandemic, including the preponderance of pandemic- and other circumstantial-related barriers. The findings from this study offer a unique understanding of the factors influencing HCWs’ choice of coping strategies under novel and increased stress. This knowledge will be central to developing appropriate forms of support and resources to equip HCWs throughout and after the pandemic period, and in mitigating the potential adverse mental health impacts of this period of prolonged stress and potential trauma.


  • Karram, Mauda
  • D'Alessandro-Lowe, Andrea M
  • Ritchie, Kimberly
  • Brown, Andrea
  • Xue, Yuanxin
  • Pichtikova, Mina
  • Altman, Maxwell
  • Beech, Isaac
  • Millman, Heather
  • Hosseiny, Fardous
  • Rodrigues, Sara
  • Heber, Alexandra
  • O'Connor, Charlene
  • Schielke, Hugo
  • Malain, Ann
  • Lanius, Ruth A
  • McCabe, Randi
  • McKinnon, Margaret

publication date

  • January 31, 2023