Risk and Resilience in the Health Workforce:

Understanding and supporting the experiences of women health workers during COVID-19

As COVID-19 rates and hospitalizations continue to rise in British Columbia, and globally, recent data shows that women are disproportionately affected due to social and economic determinants. Women’s higher risk of exposure, as they constitute over 80% of health workers, intersects with increased vulnerability to financial shocks professionally and workload at home, where women do on average two to three times more unpaid care work than men. These combined effects have been found to contribute to higher rates of COVID-19 related stress and anxiety among women, compared to men, in the general population. Yet there is little research on how COVID-19 is impacting women healthcare workers’ physical and mental health, and how this in turn affects the supply of healthcare workers, the quality of care provided and decision-making within health systems. Research is needed to better understand how to develop truly gender-responsive health systems that empower women and can withstand future health emergencies.

If you would like to sign up for an upcoming focus group please email Dr. Julia Smith at jhs6@sfu.ca

This project aims to:

  1. Identify effects of COVID-19 on women health and care workers’ mental and physical health, and how this affects health and care worker supply and quality of care.
  2. Explore women’s role in COVID-19 leadership and links with more gender-inclusive responses;
  3. Investigate how measures to support health and care workers during COVID-19 may differentially impact women workers; and,
  4. Provide guidance to decision-makers on how broader health system policies and programs can empower women health and care workers to improve health care and outcomes.


The project is based out of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University and funded by the BC Women’s Health Foundation. We are looking to work with health workers, unions/associations, health authorities and policy makers. In particular, we hope to conduct virtual focus groups with nurses, midwives and those working in community service and long term care. We also would like to conduct key informant interviews with workers, decision-makers and other stakeholders.

In-depth analyses of how women healthcare workers are particularly affected by COVID-19, as well as data on the effectiveness of measures to support health and care workers, will enable the development and implementation of appropriate policies and interventions, ultimately improving the supply and well-being of health workers and overall quality of care. Results from the research will be used to communicate with leadership and policymakers regarding women health and care workers’ experiences, provide feedback on COVID-19 related policies to date and offer recommendations going forward.

If you are interested in participating in the project, would like more information or have any questions please contact Dr. Julia Smith, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University (jhs6@sfu.ca) or Dr. Rosemary Morgan, Bloomberg School of Public Health, John Hopkins University (Rosemary.Morgan@jhu.edu) Ethics approval for this research was provided by the SFU Office of Research Ethics.

Informed Consent Information for participants - Here