UC leads research into support for health workers post-15 March attacks

The University of Canterbury (UC) is leading research into the psychological wellbeing and support of health workers who were among the first responders after the mosque attacks on 15 March 2019.

UC Senior Lecturer and Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) Nurse Researcher Dr Sandy Richardson is leading a team looking at the psychological responses and personal stories of those working with the immediate emergency health response to the terrorist attack on mosques in Christchurch.

The study is being conducted by a group of researchers from the CDHB Emergency Department, the universities of Canterbury and Otago, St John New Zealand and independent researchers. Several of these people were also involved in the clinical response to the devastating event, Dr Richardson says.

“The intention is to provide greater understanding about the response to this event, and with the help of participants, to generate lessons to take forward,” she says of the study.

“We know many individuals were involved in providing care to patients during and following the mass shooting. The researchers believe it is possible to learn from this experience, in part by understanding the individual experiences of those who were involved in the healthcare response during this time.”

The intention is to develop knowledge about the processes and systems underpinning responses, identifying the barriers and benefits from the perspectives of individuals involved in the response, as well as identifying and valuing the range of personal reactions and meanings assigned to this event.

Participants are being recruited from the pre-hospital sector and from those involved in the initial response in the Emergency Department in Christchurch Hospital.

“To date, there has been very little research done anywhere that has looked at the impact on these groups over time, and how best they can be supported,” Dr Richardson says.

“Given the challenging nature of healthcare, the increasing stresses and likelihood of ongoing natural and potentially man-made disasters, this is a significant study.”