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OBJECTIVES: Safety and welfare are critical as pandemic-related demands on the healthcare workforce continue. Access to personal protective equipment (PPE) has been a central concern of healthcare workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Against the backdrop of an already strained healthcare system, our study aimed to explore the experiences of healthcare workers with PPE during the first COVID-19 surge (February-June 2020) in Aotearoa/New Zealand (NZ). We also aimed to use these findings to present a strengths-based framework for supporting healthcare workers moving forward. DESIGN: Web-based, anonymous survey including qualitative open-text questions. Questions were both closed and open text, and recruitment was multimodal. We undertook inductive thematic analysis of the dataset as a whole to explore prominent values related to healthcare workers' experiences. SETTING: October-November 2020 in New Zealand. PARTICIPANTS: 1411 healthcare workers who used PPE during surge one of the COVID-19 pandemic. RESULTS: We identified four interactive values as central to healthcare workers' experiences: transparency, trust, safety and respect. When healthcare workers cited positive experiences, trust and safety were perceived as present, with a sense of inclusion in the process of stock allocation and effective communication with managers. When trust was low, with concerns over personal safety, poor communication and lack of transparency resulted in perceived lack of respect and distress among respondents. Our proposed framework presents key recommendations to support the health workforce in terms of communication relating to PPE supply and distribution built on those four values. CONCLUSIONS: Healthcare worker experiences with PPE access has been likened to 'the canary in the coalmine' for existing health system challenges that have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The four key values identified could be used to improve healthcare worker experience in the future.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





COVID-19, Organisation of health services, PUBLIC HEALTH, QUALITATIVE RESEARCH