It Takes a Village: A Thematic Analysis of Frontline Perspectives on Providing Live-in Therapeutic Care during a Pandemic (Alberta, CAN)

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge for all aspects of society but frontline service providers have been at the vanguard. While health care workers have rightfully received an abundance of focus, the response by social and child welfare workers to the pandemic has often been overlooked despite the myriad of risks they face as a frontline service. In March 2020, the Government of Alberta introduced the first round of restrictions related to COVID-19 including cancelling all in person classes and recommending that all licensed childcare facilities close. However, given the nature of residential treatment support work, most of Wood’s Homes campus, community, and specialized treatment programs remained open with staff continuing to provide exceptional care while facing the known and unknown risks of COVID-19. Staff in these program areas have responded by innovating their services and practices in accordance to new guidelines and restrictions, particularly around the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing.

In late August 2020, Wood’s Homes’ Research Department sent out a survey to all staff asking them to reflect on the impact the pandemic has had on their personal and professional lives. Predominate focus of the survey was on the specific innovations and best practices they have developed in response to the pandemic, and how they see this changing their work post pandemic restrictions. Over 30% of responses (n=31) came from staff in residential treatment programs, ranging from frontline workers to managers and directors. All respondents provided invaluable insight into their experiences working and innovating practice in response to the pandemic, providing a comprehensive picture of how COVID has affected work at all levels of the agency.

A thematic analysis was conducted on staff’s responses to the survey. Several prominent themes were found including the increased reliance on technology and virtual meetings to maintain services, the successes and struggles of using PPE, difficulties maintaining connection with supports, and the difficulty keeping up with changing safety policies when working closely with clients. In addition to discussing these themes, our presentation will also provide firsthand accounts and examples of how COVID has impacted work and led to the development of innovations by staff who work on the frontline in residential treatment programs. Themes and responses by different staffing positions will also be examined and discussed.

Presenters

Kiran McKay, MSW,RSW

Clinician, RSW , Wood's Homes

Email: kiran.McKay@woodshomes.ca

Angela Hick, RSW

Clinician, RSW , Wood's Homes

Email: angela.hick@woodshomes.ca

Terry Pitoulis

Research Assistant , Wood's Homes

Email: terry.pitoulis@woodshomes.ca